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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S005307/1
Title: Functional electronic textiles for light emitting and colour changing applications
Principal Investigator: Beeby, Professor SP
Other Investigators:
Tudor, Dr MJ Harrowven, Professor DC
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Carrington Textiles Ltd Defence Science & Tech Lab DSTL Merck Ltd
Urgo Ltd
Department: Electronics and Computer Science
Organisation: University of Southampton
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 October 2018 Ends: 30 September 2021 Value (£): 833,072
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design of Process systems Manufacturing Machine & Plant
Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Aug 2018 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 7 and 8 August 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Smart fabrics, or electronic-textiles (e-textiles), concern the addition of electronic functionality to standard textiles. Textiles are a ubiquitous material available in many forms and used in a huge range of applications from clothing to technical textiles that are applied in, for example, creative industries and medicine. This proposal addresses the fabrication of light emitting films on textiles and their application to achieve textile displays and colour-changing fabrics through research into electronically functional inks and using spray coating, inkjet and screen printing. Textiles are demanding substrates for device printing due to their rough surface topology, porosity and the constraints they impose on processing temperatures. The achievement of suitable functional materials along with reliable, consistent fabrication processes will have a huge impact in the textile, garment and creative industries. The ability to control the appearance of textiles through selective illumination and colour change will produce a step change in e-textile capability that will add value, function and product differentiation.

In particular, this programme of research will investigate the fabrication of textile organic light emitting electrochemical cells (OLECs) operating at visible and UV wavelengths. OLECs have the attractions of being electrochemically stable in air, require a low turn on voltage (~3V) and demonstrate a high luminance level (>800 cd/m2) allowing them to be clearly visible in everyday lighting. The OLEC structure requires only a single functional layer which makes it relatively straightforward to fabricate compared to, for example, OLED's. The ability to selectively emit different wavelengths of light will produce a step change in e-textile capability. Visible wavelength OLECs can be used to produce variable, controllable, light emitting patterns on the textile, which can be used in high visibility clothing or fashion applications. UV wavelength OLECs will enable a textile to perform ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI), which is a disinfection method that uses short wavelength UVC light at 222 or 254 nm. Textile based UVGI can be incorporated into medical applications such as smart bandages to treat/prevent infection and reduce reliance on antibiotics. UV-OLECs can also be combined with additional printed photochromic layers to realise non-light emitting colour changing textiles. When exposed to UV light, photochromic materials change from transparent to opaque and this can produce significant changes in colour. This approach can control the textile appearance without emitting light or requiring the OLEC to be continuously switched on

The research will include the formulation of custom designed enhanced organic molecules with enhanced emission efficiency compared to the state of the art. These will be formulated into printable materials and combined with printable conductive materials. Device architectures and fabrication processes (spray coating, inkjet and screen printing) will also be explored. The research will address the key processing challenges in order to realise reliable and robust thin films and devices on textiles.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.soton.ac.uk