Embroidered Antenna

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to boost your smartphone reception through the clothes you’re wearing? That’s just one of the potential applications for a new generation of e-textiles that embroider circuits into fabric with conductive threads.

The key is ultrathin thread that consists of seven copper and silver filaments, yet measures only 0.1 millimeters in diameter. Researchers have developed a way to embroider it into fabric to create circuits, integrating electronic components – like sensors and memory devices – right into clothing, with accuracy that’s comparable to traditional printed circuit boards.

The method uses a standard tabletop sewing machine, and the shape of the design controls the operating frequency of the antenna or circuit. For example, by combining different sized, interlocking, geometric shapes, a broad spectrum antenna can be embroidered in about 15 minutes using approximately 10 feet (30 cents worth) of thread. In testing, an embroidered antenna was demonstrated to transmit 1 to 5 Giga-hertz frequency signals with nearly perfect efficiency.

The ultimate applications for wearable electronics range from enhancing communication to monitoring your brain activity. The researchers intend to license the technology for further development.

For information: John Volakis, Ohio State University, ElectroScience Laboratory, 1330 Kinnear Road, Columbus, OH 43212; phone: 614-292-5846; fax: 614-292-7297; email: volakis.1@osu.edu; Web site: https://www.osu.edu/