Wearable Antennas, Sensors and a Novel Class of Textiles

Authors: Asimina Kiourti and John L. Volakis

Source: FERMAT, Volume 14, Communications 9, Mar Apr., 2016

Abstract: We present a new class of electromagnetically (EM) functionalized garments that have excellent electrical and mechanical properties [1]-[3]. These are comfortable to wear and of low-cost, but still provide RF performance similar to their copper counterparts. A key feature of our technology is the use of metal-coated polymer E-threads that can be densely and precisely embroidered onto everyday garments using computerized sewing machines. Because of their unique structure, these E-threads exhibit high mechanical strength, flexibility, and conductivity. The unique features of our fabrication process may be summarized as follows: 1) Geometrical precision achieved in embroidery can be as high as 0.3mm [2], and more recently down to 0.1mm [3]; 2) Our automated embroidery process is not limited by garment types, thickness or material types; 3) The textile surfaces can be easily integrated on polymer substrates to realize fully-flexible prototypes [1]; 4) The textile surfaces feel and behave like any other clothing. At the same time, their RF performance is as good as that of copper, even after 10s of washings. Our work has already demonstrated the efficacy of our electronic textiles. Example applications include: 1) textile antennas integrated into everyday garments (e.g., suits, shirts, and scarfs) to realize all sorts of communication functionalities [4]; b) body-worn medical sensors (e.g., deeptissue imaging sensors, wireless fully-passive brain implants, etc.) [5]-[8]; c) textile antennas for integration into airframes, particularly small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) [9]; d) textilebased RFIDs [10]; and e) stretchable and flexible textile antennas embedded in polymer for operation in harsh environments (e.g., automotive, implantable, wearable, etc.) [11]. Overall, we envision smart wearables that integrate several breakthrough technologies (smart textiles; fabric and polymer materials; wearable RF electronics; sensors; data processing; unobtrusive transceivers; RFIDs; energy harvesters) in a comfortable, attractive and unobtrusive manner.

Keywords: conductive textiles, conformal antennas, flexible antennas, textile antennas, wearable antennas, wearable sensors

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Wearable Antennas, Sensors and a Novel Class of Textiles