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Smart Textile For Healthcare Applications

Dr. Ketankumar Vadodaria
National Institute of Design (NID),


Smart textiles possess a range of cutting-edge features that set them apart from traditional fabrics. In an era driven by technological advancements, the integration of technology with everyday objects has become a fascinating reality. The integration of technology into textiles brings several advantages. These include enhanced functionality, improved comfort, personalized experiences, and potential sustainability benefits. These fabrics possess advanced functionalities that go beyond
conventional textiles. Smart textiles are functional textiles which can sense, react, and adapt to their environment the surrounding and act passively, actively, or intelligently as the required function. With their versatility and interactivity, smart textiles are transforming the way we interact with clothing and textile products. These textiles find applications in wearable technology,  fashion, healthcare, and interactive textiles. They enable the creation of garments that can sense, transmit, and process data, opening up possibilities for communication, biometric monitoring, and augmented reality experiences.

Smart textiles are engineered using materials and textile structures to meet specific functionalities. Smart textiles can be majorly classified as

● Non electronic textiles: - These fabrics are made with smart materials / polymers and various textile structures without electronics such as phase change textiles, chromic textiles. Smart polymers, also known as stimuli-responsive or intelligent polymers, are a class of materials that can undergo reversible changes in their physical or chemical properties in response to external stimuli such as temperature, pH, light, electric fields, or moisture. When integrated into textiles, smart
polymers offer unique functionalities and applications

● Electronic textiles: - These futuristic fabrics, embedded with electronic components and interconnected systems, have revolutionized the textile industry and opened up endless possibilities for enhanced functionality, comfort, and interactivity.

● Combination of both:- traditional fabrics with interactive and functional materials, integrated with electronic components and devices

In this review, we delve into the world of smart textiles, exploring their key features, applications, and potential impact on various aspects of our lives.

smart polymers in textiles

Here are some key aspects of smart polymers in textiles:

● Shape Memory Effect: Shape memory polymers (SMPs) are a type of smart polymer that can return to their original shape from a temporary deformed state when exposed to a specific stimulus, such as heat or light. When incorporated into textiles, SMPs can provide garments with the ability to change shape,
adapt to body contours, and enhance the overall fit and comfort. For example, smart polymer fibers can enable self -adjusting waistbands or self-shaping collars, ensuring a personalized and ergonomic fit.

● Thermochromic Properties: Thermochromic polymers change color with variations in temperature. When used in textiles, these polymers can create garments that visually indicate changes in body temperature or ambient conditions. Thermochromic textiles have applications in sports, healthcare, and safety clothing. For instance, thermochromic fabrics can display color changes to indicate the presence of heat or indicate localized temperature variations for thermal mapping.

● Hydrophilic/Hydrophobic Properties: Smart polymers that exhibit reversible changes in hydrophilicity and hydrophobicity can be incorporated into textiles to create moisture-responsive fabrics. These materials can effectively manage moisture by repelling or absorbing water based on the environmental
conditions or wearer's perspiration levels. Moistureresponsive textiles can enhance comfort, breathability, and moisture management properties of garments, making them suitable for athletic wear, outdoor clothing, and medical textiles.

● pH-Responsive Polymers: pH-responsive polymers undergo structural changes in response to changes in pH levels. By integrating pH-responsive polymers into textiles, garments can provide localized release of drugs or therapeutic agents in response to variations in pH, making them suitable for applications such as wound dressings or drug delivery systems. pH-responsive textiles can enable targeted treatments and enhance patient comfort during medical procedures.

● Electroactive Polymers: Electroactive polymers exhibit changes in shape, stiffness, or conductivity when subjected to an electric field. When used in textiles, electroactive polymers can enable the development of wearable electronic systems, such as sensors, actuators, or energy harvesting devices.
These textiles can be used in applications ranging from haptic feedback in smart clothing to the integration of electronic components directly into the fabric, enabling seamless and flexible electronic systems.

● Light-Sensitive Polymers: Light-responsive or photochromic polymers undergo reversible changes in color or physical properties upon exposure to light. When incorporated into textiles, photochromic polymers can create garments that change color or pattern in response to sunlight or specific light
wavelengths. This feature offers opportunities for design versatility, fashion applications, and customizable aesthetics in textiles.

● Smart polymers in textiles open up a wide range of possibilities for functional, interactive, and responsive fabrics. They enhance garment performance, comfort, and aesthetics, while also enabling novel applications in healthcare, sports, fashion, and other industries. As research and development in smart polymers continue, we can expect to see further innovations and advancements in the field of smart textiles.

Conductive material for e textiles

Conventional textiles are nonconductive and insulative in nature. Hence in order to make e-textiles Conductive materials and polymers (Table 1 & Table 2) play a crucial role by enabling the transmission of electrical signals and creating functional circuits within fabrics. Figure 1 shows different materials from Insulator to conductive materials

Table 1 Conductive Materials and polymers

Carbon based Graphene, Graphite, Activated carbon, Carbon nanotube etc.
Metal Copper, Gold, Silver, Aluminum, Steel etc.
Mxene New family of two-dimensional early transition metal carbides and carbonitrides
Conductive polymers polyacetylene (PA), polyaniline (PANI), polypyrrole (PPy), polythiophene (PTH), poly (para - phenylene) (PPP) , poly (phenylenevinylene) (PPV), and polyfuran (PF)

Table 2 List of Conducting polymers

Poly aniline , PANI
Poly pyrrole (Ppy)
Poly Thiophene (PT)
Poly ethylene dioxythiophene

Here are some commonly used conductive materials for etextiles:

● Conductive fibres / filaments / yarns: These are yarns or threads coated or infused with conductive materials. Conductive yarns allow the creation of flexible and conductive pathways within textiles, enabling the integration of electronic components. They can be used for stitching, embroidery, or
weaving to create conductive traces, connections, and sensors in e-textiles.

● Conductive Inks and Paints: Conductive inks and paints contain conductive particles dispersed in a liquid medium. These inks can be applied using various methods, including screen printing, inkjet printing, or brush painting, to create conductive patterns or circuits directly on fabric surfaces.
Conductive inks and paints offer versatility in design and are suitable for prototyping or low-volume production of e-textiles.

● Conductive Fabrics: Some fabrics are inherently conductive due to their composition or the incorporation of conductive fibers. Examples include fabrics made from stainless steel, carbon fiber, or metallized fabrics. These fabrics provide a conductive surface throughout the textile, enabling the
creation of conductive pathways or electrodes without the need for additional conductive materials.

● Conductive Elastomers: Conductive elastomers are flexible materials that can be integrated into e-textiles to create stretchable and conductive connections. These materials often consist of a combination of conductive particles and a flexible polymer matrix. Conductive elastomers enable the
development of stretchable circuits and sensors, making them suitable for applications that require flexibility and durability.

● Conductive Adhesives: Conductive adhesives are materials that contain conductive particles dispersed in an adhesive matrix. They are used to bond electronic components to textiles or to create conductive connections between different parts of an e-textile. Conductive adhesives provide reliable electrical conductivity and mechanical stability.

● Conductive Foam or Sponge: Conductive foam or sponge materials are porous structures that contain conductive particles, often carbon-based, dispersed within a foam or sponge matrix. These materials are used to create soft and compressible conductive pads, sensors, or electrodes in etextiles. They can be easily integrated into garments or wearable devices to provide comfortable and responsive interfaces.

● When selecting conductive materials for e-textiles, factors such as conductivity, flexibility, washability, and compatibility with manufacturing processes should be considered. Different applications may require specific conductive materials based on their performance requirements and the desired functionalities of the e-textile system.

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