Emerging Scanning Results: Electro-Textiles
PATH Roadmap Applicability:
"Plug it in anywhere" may actually mean anywhere you choose even if an outlet is not within reach, if electro-textiles become widely available in the market. Electro-textiles are conductive materials that are woven or integrated into fabrics. These fabrics offer alternative methods for data and power transmission that are currently in use.
The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center is working to incorporate Electro-textiles into clothing. This would enable clothing to transmit signals to equipment a soldier is carrying. They are working to incorporate a product developed by Foster Miller under an SBIR project into their clothing. This technology will turn otherwise passive clothing and other fabrics into an integral part of the soldier's electronic/communications systems. Foster Miller is also developing a textile antenna product. Possible applications in housing include incorporation into carpeting or wall finishes to transmit controls and other signals.
Application to PATH Roadmaps
Electro-Fabrics may have application to each of the four PATH Roadmap projects. For the Whole House and Advanced Panelization Roadmaps, the possibility exists to develop this technology to the point where utilities that depend on wiring can be taken out of the wall cavity and integrated into the surface of finish materials. The technology already exists to transmit data and small power requirements. Further development of this technology will offer greater flexibility in the design. This technology could also be applied to the Existing Homes Roadmap for control of retrofit equipment. For example, wiring for controls could more easily be surface applied as opposed to fishing through a wall cavity. Likewise, with integration into carpets or other materials, the IT Roadmap could benefit by creating the flexibility to move communications and other equipment without the need to install separate wiring.
Current Status of Technology
The SBIR program initially focused on integration of a USB into fabrics, since USB is commonly used with desktop computers. The normal cable arrangement was manufactured as a thin, flexible material. The ARMY plans to eventually employ fabric-based cables and connections for wearable applications.
This technology has already resulted in a commercial application. Malden Mills, of Lawrence, MA, has successfully integrated this technology into their Polartec electric blanket. Malden Mills was interested in producing an electric blanket that did not come with the traditional bulky wiring and was thus more flexible. The blanket is heated with a low-voltage current. It uses about the same power as a 100 watt bulb. The blanket can even be machine-washed and dried at home. It is distributed exclusively through Land's End.
Content updated on 4/14/2003