Flexible batteries that can be printed directly onto FABRIC could soon make for high-tech military clothing and 'wearable computers'

Researchers have created technology that overcomes one of the biggest hurdles related to wearables - how to power them.

In an effort to eliminate the need for cumbersome battery packs that limit the shape and size of wearables, researchers have created flexible battery-like devices that can be printed directly on to textiles.

Using a simple screen-printing technique, they have been able to make cotton into a wearable itself.

'It will open up possibilities of making an environmental friendly and cost-effective smart e-textile that can store energy and monitor human activity and physiological condition at the same time,' said Nazmul Karim, Knowledge Exchange Fellow at The University of Manchester, who co-authored the paper.

Devices known as supercapacitors that are lightweight and can allow for rapid charging have been seen as the key, and now this new development of a solid-state supercapacitor that is also flexible demonstrates it can be printed on fabric. 

These printed electrodes have shown 'excellent' mechanical stability due to the strong interaction between the ink and textile.

'The development of graphene-based flexible textile supercapacitor using a simple and scalable printing technique is a significant step towards realizing multifunctional next generation wearable e-textiles,' Karim said.

With more development, these supercapacitors could turn the increase the potential of wearables drastically.  

Applications could include: high-performance sportswear that monitors performance, embedded health-monitoring devices, lightweight military gear and new classes of mobile communication devices.

The researchers say even 'wearable computers' can't be ruled out.

'The device is also washable, which makes it practically possible to use it for the future smart clothes,' said Amor Abdelkader, the study's other author.

'We believe this work will open the door for printing other types of devices on textile using 2D-materials inks.' 

Reasonable mechanical flexibility is necessary to powering new types of devices being conceived, as is high energy and power density, good operational safety, and long cycling life.

'Textiles are some of the most flexible substrates, and for the first time, we printed a stable device that can store energy and be as flexible as cotton,' Abdelkader said. 

Reasonable mechanical flexibility is necessary to powering the new types of devices being conceived. 'Textiles are some of the most flexible substrates, and for the first time, we printed a stable device that can store energy and be as flexible as cotton,' Abdelkader said

A low cost is also necessary, which makes the success with graphene-oxide, a form of graphene, a big win - it can be produced and applied to textiles relatively cheaply and easily. 

The University of Manchester is currently building its second major graphene facility, which is plants to complete in 2018 for £60m.

It will compliment the National Graphene Institute (NGI) as an international research and technology facility.

The wearable industry is continuing a steady climb with multiple major tech tech firms continuing to push the products.

Sales of wearables rose 21 percent to 22 million units over the last year, according to a report from Strategy Analytics.

With this flexible battery-like device that can be printed on textiles, you could 'connect' your entire outfit with smart technology

Apple has recently found increased success with its wearable Apple Watch - while it doesn't release numbers for it, an estimate by Strategy Analytics showed a 59 percent jump in sales from a year earlier, with 3.5 million units sold in the first three months of 2017
"The new Apple Watch Series 2 is selling relatively well in the US, UK and elsewhere, due to enhanced styling, intensive marketing and a good retail presence," said Strategy Analytics executive director Neil Mawston. 

Samsung is working on a new smartwatch that will include the features of a fitness band, reports suggest.

Last week, the company accidentally revealed details of the new device in an email survey sent by Samsung to members of its SmartLab Plus program..
The new smartwatch, a successor to the firm's Gear S3, will combine the features of the Gear S3 with Samsung's Gear Fit 2 wearable.

It is designed to be something you wear all day 'from work to the gym' and will be fully waterproof, with a smaller body and strap to improve comfort.   

SmartLab is a consumer engagement scheme designed to collect customer comments on upcoming products.

'Samsung needs your opinion on some taglines that are being considered for when promoting the below product,' Samsung wrote in the email.

'The new product concept takes the best bits from Gear S3 and Gear Fit 2 in the form of a smartwatch (rather than an activity tracker).' 

The new smartwatch will come with a smaller body and thinner straps to provide 'maximum comfort'.

The watch straps will be replaceable, allowing customers to personalize their look much like users of rival wearables Fitbit or the Apple Watch. 

Meanwhile, Fitbit, which has been a longtime leader of the wearables market with its fitness band has seen a 36 percent slide in sales in the first quarter of 2017, the research firm said. 

Sources : 

Flexible batteries power the future of wearable technology

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