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Design and Integration of Graphene Fibre Based Antennas for Smart Textiles

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GFSMART (Design and Integration of Graphene Fibre Based Antennas for Smart Textiles)

Période du rapport: 2018-04-01 au 2020-03-31

In the era of the Internet of things (IoT), textiles that surround us in daily life can create a functional interface that facilitates connectivity. The project focuses on exploring a new tangible interface for the IoT network and tackles one of the critical components, the antennas, in wireless communication. Textiles, including electronic components, are about to face tremendous environmental and resource challenges due to the complexity of sorting, the risk to supplies and metal contamination in textile recycling streams. Besides, meeting the requirement for textiles to exhibit qualities of drapability, touch, lightness and washability when combined with metals, creates new challenges in making the textiles wearable. Proposing invisibly and unobtrusively electronic integration of these components into wearables became essential especially while designing for the young children and elderly people mainly with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia due to their preferences for haptic interaction and lacking control on some external devices such as tracking devices, and other communication tools. Not limited to wearables, textiles can offer a new communication interface that promises tangible hidden connectivity in the context of tracking and monitoring of vulnerable children either in outdoor/indoor settings, and elderly and people with disabilities to provide services in public spaces and transportation, architectural spaces for anonymously tracking patients for disease spreading, and many more.
We attempted to create a graphene-based communicating piece of cloth that grounded in textile making knowledge, electronics and material science. Different antennas for ultra-wideband communication that benefits from graphene assemblies as the radiating element such as graphene fibres, chemical vapour deposition (CVD) grown multi-layer (ML) graphene sheets on the textile surfaces and as a reference graphene-based inks were designed. The promised textile-based antennas covered a wide bandwidth ranging from 3 GHz to 9 GHz, which is a promising solution for a high data rate and efficient communication link. We highlighted the textile requirements that we can positively contribute to the wearing comfort and sustainability of e-textiles when offering technological communication solutions. Also, several issues associated with being worn on the body and the effects of bending and proximity to the human body on the antenna’s overall performance were investigated.
The project began asking the question of what material systems and forms could suggest ”sustainable”, "easy care" and ”washable” fully integrated textile-based communication interface that can replace the current rigid, restrictive and toxic approaches causing a new type of waste, namely e-waste. We explored different “graphene” assemblies in wearable communication and investigated on/off body antenna measurements, and designed the textile interface by embracing a human-centred design approach.
The project followed this methodology to fabricate soft communicating interface:
1. Macroscopic assembly of graphene-based fibres: Continuous wet-spinning assembly approach to continuously spin flexible graphene oxide (GO) fibres were performed and optimised based on the elasticity and strength of the yarns by tuning coagulation bath composition and annealing. The bench-top automated wet spinning system was designed to spin graphene fibres continuously.
2. Macroscopic assembly of chemical vapour deposition (CVD) grown multi-layer (ML) graphene sheets on textiles: We introduced CVD grown ML graphene sheets on a cellulosic textile substrate to fabricate wearable antennas for body-centric wireless communication, and worked on the compatibility of the surfaces to ensure wearers’ comfort and weight penalty of radiating elements.
3. Exploring off-the-shelves graphene-based and other metallic inks and threads
4. Graphene-based textile antenna fabrication: A series of different textile antennas were designed and reported based on the communication protocol and the textile making method used. Monopole graphene-based thread antennas were fabricated by tuning the twist count, the number of yarns in a bundle and the length of the device, that later can be integrated into the cloth by weaving in the weft direction. Different variations in planar inverted cone antennas were proposed for CVD grown ML graphene-based textile antennas, and a new integration technique was proposed that promotes high durability and washability in wearable antenna systems.
5. Antenna Characterisation and Simulations of Graphene-Based Textile Antennas: Both fibre-based and textile-based antennas were studied experimentally and numerically based on on/off body performance.
6. Identifying technology and tactile preferences of elderly people mainly affected by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
7. Tuning the design of wireless-communicating graphene-based textile antenna systems
The project results were disseminated as proceedings in international conferences including AUTEX, SNAIA, IEEE- APS, ITMC2019, as journal articles in Applied Materials Today and Nano Letters. Project highlights were posted on social media such as Twitter, Instagram and host-institution and collaborators' web pages. Communicating cloth prototypes were also showcased in Smart Textiles Saloon 2019, and in public engagement event, “Science is Wonderful” in 2019. Two professional videos were filmed to address the scale and scope of the GFSMART project and also screened in the “Intersections” conference in London. Two non-academic news articles were featured as part of GFSMART research.
The project positions ‘textiles” intertwined by people's daily lives as a facilitator in the hyper-connected world. This interdisciplinary project's outcomes will contribute to the EU targets by developing, and uptake of material and digital technology to make a real difference for the society, in various settings including smart home, healthcare, security and indoor/outdoor positioning systems. Besides, the research rooted in the textile making at the intersection of physical and digital suggests possible pathways deploying electronics and material science in priority areas to support the textile industry and the EU economy. In the move towards wearable communication systems, the strength of this project comes from bringing a new understanding of the complexity of human, nature and material world, rather than employing precise material fabrication methods. Despite the remarkable progress in the synthesis of graphene-based products in the last decade, ”wearable technologies” often disregard the playful and scalable nature of textile substrates. This project attempted to bring electronic functions with innovative textile surfaces and soft systems, to show the contribution of ”°textile” in response beyond being a system carrier but as a smart facilitator in highly specific tasks. The design concerns including tactile comfort and sorting of e-waste are addressing affective and sensory material values within a technological landscape, that might help scientists and designers to find new opportunities for 2D materials involving human interfaces and user acceptance, even for very challenging scenarios that include the well-being and safety of elderly people and young children.
Hand loom with monopole graphene thread antenna
A soft future by using graphene for wireless communication
Graphene based communicating cloth
Overview of graphene fibre spinning
Graphene woven mesh