Discovery paves the way for the use of nylon in “e-textiles”

For the first time, a team of scientists including the Portuguese Paulo Rocha, from the Center for Functional Ecology of the University of Coimbra (UC), produced piezoelectric nylon fibers, paving the way for the use of this fabric in electronic textiles smart and wearable (e-textiles).

First introduced in the 1940s in socks, nylon is one of the most widely used synthetic fibers in textiles. However, the production of e-textiles based on this material has remained undefined until today due to the difficulty of reaching the piezoelectric phase in nylon fibers.

“Demand for electronic and smart textiles has been growing, due to commercial viability and consumer interest. However, the textile industry currently faces the challenge of finding fibers from inexpensive and readily available electronic materials that are suitable for modern clothing”, contextualizes Paulo Rocha.

Piezoelectric materials, he explains, “are widely used in sensor applications and are among the viable candidates for capturing energy from mechanical vibrations, such as body movement. On average, our body produces about 100W. So why not use this energy source?”.

Paulo Rocha, UC

This study, led by Kamal Asadi, a researcher at the Max-Planck Institute in Germany and a professor at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, focused on nylon precisely because it is widely used by the textile industry, but whose piezoelectric functionality in the form of fiber has not been achieved since its invention.

“For the first time, we demonstrated the piezoelectric phase in nylon fibers and showed that these fibers can be used for the creation and detection of electricity. Considering the fact that nylons are highly sought after materials in the textile industry, the demonstration of piezoelectric nylon fibers will be a substantial advance in the industry”, reveals Paulo Rocha.

The production of the first piezoelectric nylon fibers in the world was possible through the engineering of “a mixture of solvents and electrospinning technique, which allowed the manufacture of fibers with a well-controlled diameter in the desired piezoelectric crystalline phase. Piezoelectric nylon fibers have a very strong electromechanical response when they receive mechanical impacts. In addition, we propose a method to further increase the piezoelectric activity of nylon fibers”, describes the researcher at the Center for Functional Ecology of the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Coimbra (FCTUC).

“The low cost availability and the presence of an established industry would allow the scale of piezoelectric nylon fibers to increase in the direction of accessible smart devices”, highlights Paulo Rocha, that is, the discovery, already published in the scientific journal Advanced Functional Materials, presents endless possibilities, even the generation of portable power. But one thing is certain, regardless of the intended application, this team took the first major step towards a piezoelectric nylon-based fabric.

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