As our world becomes increasingly reliant on technology, it's only natural that we would want to find ways to integrate it into our clothing. Smart clothing has the potential to revolutionize the way we live and work, but there are still some major challenges to overcome. One of the biggest challenges is finding a way to cost-effectively print circuits onto fabric. Current methods are very slow and expensive, which makes it difficult to mass-produce smart clothing.
But if scientists can find a way to overcome this obstacle, the possibilities are endless. Smart clothing could be used to monitor our posture, communicate with smartphones and even regulate our body temperature. So while there are still some hurdles to clear, the future of smart clothing is looking very bright.
Thanks to a new microgel ink, we may be one step closer to making this vision a reality.
Yong He and colleagues from Zhejiang University have developed a conductive microgel ink that can be used for flexible electronics. The ink is made of liquid metal droplets coated with alginate, a polymer derived from algae. Gallium-based liquid metals are very promising for flexible electronics because of their fluid nature and excellent conductivity. However, they don't stick well to fabrics and their large surface tension causes them to ball up during printing, rather than form continuous circuits.
The microgel ink overcomes these obstacles by forming a network of interconnected droplets that can be printed directly onto clothing in complex patterns.
To make their ink, the researchers mixed LM and alginate. Stirring the solution and removing the excess liquid resulted in LM microdroplets coated with an alginate microgel.
The team's microgel ink is a big step forward for the development of smart clothing, but there are still some challenges to overcome. For example, the ink is very sensitive to humidity and oxygen, so it needs to be stored in an airtight container. In addition, the printed patterns are not very durable and can be easily damaged.
Despite these challenges, the team is confident that their microgel ink will eventually be used to mass-produce smart clothing. And as technology continues to develop, we may one day see clothes that are truly out of this world. Who knows, maybe our grandkids will be wearing clothes made from liquid metal!