If you were to go to your doctor’s office today for a routine physical, the first five minutes would involve getting your blood pressure taken, taking your pulse, and getting your temperature. In the future, wearable technology may allow you to upload all of this crucial data to your doctor instantly from the devices and sensors already woven into your clothing or even tattooed on your body.
Wearable technology is evolving at a breakneck pace, with the help of advances in flexible printed circuit boards. One of the biggest challenges researchers and manufacturers face when devising wearable technology is creating materials that can flex and stretch while also maintaining conductivity and connections with the different circuits.
Developing just the right materials is a crucial piece in the future of wearable technology.
What Materials Work Best with Wearable Technology?
Wearable technology is a big category and includes everything from patches that can be layered onto skin to coats, shirts, and even sports bras. Each iteration of wearable technology offers unique challenges when finding the right materials.
Graphene is a popular material choice, because it is an excellent conductor of electricity and also very flexible. Graphene offers an important alternative to wearables that rely on rigid components that can’t flex well. Researchers at Jiangnan University are actively experimenting with ways to blend graphene-based inks into cotton cloth.
Another option is the thermoplastic polyurethane, a highly adaptable plastic material. Already, a German company, Covestro, is using polyurethane to develop wearable skin patches that are breathable and hypoallergenic. Another thermoplastic polymere called polyethylene terephthalate (PET) offers excellent transparency, good flexibility, and is easy to fabricate.
One the latest material innovations has been the development of soft silicone elastomers. Not only do these materials offer great flexibility, but they are prized for their ability to conform to a wide variety of shapes and textures. This puts them at the forefront of stretchable, wearable sensors. Some of the top soft silicone elastomers are: EcoFlex®, DragonSkin®, and Silbione®.
The field of wearable technology materials is advancing at breakneck speed. Here at GC Aero, we are keeping on top of these trends so that we can continue providing the most advanced flexible printed circuit boards to our clients.