Electronic textiles, also known as smart garments, smart clothing, smart textiles, or smart fabrics
Electronic textiles, also known as smart garments, smart clothing, smart textiles, or smart fabrics, are fabrics that enable digital components such as a battery and a light (including small computers), and electronics to be embedded in them. Smart textiles are fabrics that have been developed with new technologies that provide added value to the wearer. Pailes-Friedman of the Pratt Institute states that “what makes smart fabrics revolutionary is that they have the ability to do many things that traditional fabrics cannot, including communicate, transform, conduct energy and even grow”.
Smart textiles can be broken into two different categories: aesthetic and performance enhancing. Aesthetic examples include fabrics that light up and fabrics that can change colour. Some of these fabrics gather energy from the environment by harnessing vibrations, sound or heat, reacting to these inputs. The colour changing and lighting scheme can also work by embedding the fabric with electronics that can power it. Performance enhancing smart textiles are intended for use in athletic, extreme sports and military applications. These include fabrics designed to regulate body temperature, reduce wind resistance, and control muscle vibration – all of which may improve athletic performance. Other fabrics have been developed for protective clothing, to guard against extreme environmental hazards, such as radiation and the effects of space travel. The health and beauty industry is also taking advantage of these innovations, which range from drug-releasing medical textiles, to fabric with moisturizer, perfume, and anti-aging properties. Many smart clothing, wearable technology, and wearable computing projects involve the use of e-textiles.
Electronic textiles are distinct from wearable computing because emphasis is placed on the seamless integration of textiles with electronic elements like microcontrollers, sensors, and actuators. Furthermore, e-textiles need not be wearable. For instance, e-textiles are also found in interior design.
The related field of fibretronics explores how electronic and computational functionality can be integrated into textile fibers.
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