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Scientists at the University of Manchester, U.K., have developed a method for printing batteries directly onto cotton fabrics. The new technology could eventually power smart electronic textiles, which is a growing sector in textile innovations.

This advance is a solution for powering devices on wearable technology items without the need for battery packs. Through the development of a flexible supercapacitor device, an apparatus similar to a battery but can charge a device fully and quickly in a matter of seconds, scientists discovered that they could print the technology directly onto cotton fabrics via conductive graphene-oxide ink. The interaction creates an exceptional mechanical stability due to a positive interaction between the textile substrate and ink.

The solution enables flexible supercapacitors to be embedded in the fabric itself, which greatly strengthens the potential for wearable technology to become a stronger segment in the market, especially for high-performance sportswear, lightweight military gear or health-monitoring apparel.

Graphene-oxide, a form of graphene, is a low-cost item that can be manufactured inexpensively.

Amor Abdelkader, from University of Manchester, said, “Textiles are some of the most flexible substrates, and for the first time, we printed a stable device that can store energy and be as flexible as cotton.” Abdelkader added, “The device is also washable, which makes it practically possible to use it for the future smart clothes. We believe this work will open the door for printing other types of devices on textiles using 2-D-material inks.”

Nazmul Karim, from the U.K. National Graphene Institute, said, “The development of a graphene-based flexible textile supercapacitor using a simple and scalable printing technique is a significant step towards realizing multifunctional next-generation wearable e-textiles.”

“It will open up possibilities of making an environmental-friendly and cost-effective smart e-textile that can store energy and monitor human activity and physiological condition at the same time,” Karim said.

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