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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T001313/1
Title: Production engineering research for the manufacture of novel electronically functional yarns for multifunctional smart textiles
Principal Investigator: Dias, Professor T
Other Investigators:
Hurley, Mr W Hughes-Riley, Dr T
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Camira Fabrics Ltd Defence Science & Tech Lab DSTL Plessey Semiconductors Ltd
Polyco Healthline QinetiQ Stretchline
TechniTex Faraday Ltd
Department: Sch of Art and Design
Organisation: Nottingham Trent University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 August 2019 Ends: 31 July 2022 Value (£): 1,322,905
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design & Testing Technology Manufacturing Machine & Plant
Materials Characterisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Aerospace, Defence and Marine Manufacturing
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
11 Jun 2019 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 11 and 12 June 2019 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
This proposal is concerned with the research and development of new manufacturing methods that add electronic functionality to the heart of textiles by incorporating semiconductor devices into yarns. Textiles are one of the most common materials with which humans come into contact, but, at present, their functionality is limited to their appearance and physical properties. There is considerable and growing interest in multifunctional textiles with added electronic functionality: These will offer a far greater range of functionality that can include sensing, data processing and interaction with the user and, as a result, can be applied in a vast range of applications. Electronic textiles (E-textiles) need to not only perform well but also be robust, comfortable to wear and be readily used, worn, washed, and maintained.

Currently, electronics have been integrated with textiles by either attaching or printing the electronics onto the surface of a textile (first generation), or the electronic functionality is added at the textile manufacturing stage (second generation). The first generation E-textiles will always interfere with the textile properties of a garment; even thin film devices or circuits printed on textiles. As a textile conforms to a shape some regions bend and some go into shear deformation: Both factors are important for drape and conformability. Knitted and woven textiles are able to conform to a shape as they bend and shear however, a thin polymer film can bend but, as it cannot shear, it will buckle and crumple rather than conform to a shape. The second generation textiles may retain a textile feel but are limited in their applications, such as the creation of electrical pathways, and electrode-based sensing. Therefore, Professor Dias (the PI) pioneered the development of a platform technology for embedding semiconductor packaged dice within the core of yarns, in order to integrate electronics into the heart of textile structures. The production process starts with re-flow soldering of package dice onto fine copper wire. A carrier yarn is placed in parallel to provide improved tensile strength to the copper wire populated with packaged dice. The package dice and carrier yarn are then encapsulated within polymer micro-pods to provide protection from moisture ingress. The micro-pod and copper interconnects are finally surrounded with additional fibres held tightly together within a knitted fibre sheath to create an electronic yarn (E-yarn).

The aim of this project is to create the underlying knowledge to produce E-yarns in an automated fashion reliably, and to demonstrate an automated pilot manufacturing line (TRL4). The ability to produce E-yarns in a semi-automated fashion using two-terminal packaged dice has already been demonstrated by the investigators. The programme of research will extend this expertise to the reliable creation of E-yarns based on semiconductor devices with more than two terminals, massively extending the scope for the types of E-yarn that can be created. To achieve this ambitious goal the following research areas must be addressed: thermal energy management for soldering semiconductor dice; encapsulation of soldered dice; optimisation of the techniques of covering copper wires populated with dice to prevent their migration to the surface of the E-yarn; development of testing methods for the E-yarns.

This proposal concerns a platform manufacturing technology that can address a range of E-textiles applications. The research will ensure that the technology can deliver the required functionality, meet the requirements of practical use, and provide the platform for commercialising the E-yarn technology. Project results will increase industry capability in the UK to lead the E-textile sector, which is expected to grow to a $5 billion market by 2028; hence the proposed research is timely.

[1] www.idtechex.com/research/reports/e-textiles-2018-2028-technologies-markets-and-players-000613.asp
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Organisation Website: http://www.ntu.ac.uk