Our goal is to integrate circuits into nonwoven textiles to create textile printed circuit boards. This technology will be applied towards wearable computing applications like physiological monitoring garments, textile RFID, and human-robot distributed networks. Our research adopts the technologies used in the polymer thick film (PTF) industry and adapts and applies them to nonwoven textiles. Instead of weaving or knitting conductive yarns with fabrics, we are currently screen printing conductive inks onto nonwoven textile substrates.
In order to determine the capabilities of these inks as they have been printed onto the nonwoven substrates, we have measured the electrical properties of printed transmission lines. These experiments have shown that the printed lines can support multi-gigabit per second applications for line distances of up to 2 m. In addition, we have designed active ECG dry electrodes for integration into a garment. Preliminary tests with these nonwoven printed electrodes show promising results yielding a clean ECG waveform. Currently, a wireless Bluetooth system is being developed using a HP IPAQ Pocket PC and a remote embedded Bluetooth system with an ECG preamplifier and Texas Instruments MSP-430 microcontroller. Ultimately, the embedded Bluetooth system will be integrated into a garment for heart rate and respiration monitoring. This system will allow wireless monitoring of a person’s heart rate without large bulky electronics and obstructive wires.
Our outreach to industry currently includes the following companies: Freudenberg, DuPont™, Creative Materials, Precisia, Paralec, and Goulston Technologies. This project is funded by the National Textile Center (NTC).