large-area display textiles

Douglas Steele sent me a most interesting research paper titled “Large-area display textiles integrated with functional systems.” The paper was published by a group of researchers from several universities, including Fudan University Shanghai, University of Darmstadt, UCLA, and the University of Technology Sydney with the prime authors being Xiang Shi, Peining Chen and Huisheng Peng.

A fascinating approach of using conductive weft and luminescent warp to create miniature electroluminescent pixels. They state:

Weaving conductive weft and luminescent warp 26 fibres forms micron-scale EL units at the weft-warp contact points. Brightness between EL 27 units … remains stable even when the textile is bent, stretched or pressed.

Below is the full abstract:

Displays are basic building blocks of modern electronics1,2. Integrating displays into textiles offers exciting opportunities for smart electronic textiles—the ultimate goal of wearable technology, poised to change the way in which we interact with electronic devices3,4,5,6. Display textiles serve to bridge human–machine interactions7,8,9, offering, for instance, a real-time communication tool for individuals with voice or speech difficulties. Electronic textiles capable of communicating10, sensing11,12 and supplying electricity13,14 have been reported previously. However, textiles with functional, large-area displays have not yet been achieved, because it is challenging to obtain small illuminating units that are both durable and easy to assemble over a wide area. Here we report a 6-metre-long, 25-centimetre-wide display textile containing 5 × 105 electroluminescent units spaced approximately 800 micrometres apart. Weaving conductive weft and luminescent warp fibres forms micrometre-scale electroluminescent units at the weft–warp contact points. The brightness between electroluminescent units deviates by less than 8 per cent and remains stable even when the textile is bent, stretched or pressed. Our display textile is flexible and breathable and withstands repeated machine-washing, making it suitable for practical applications. We show that an integrated textile system consisting of display, keyboard and power supply can serve as a communication tool, demonstrating the system’s potential within the ‘internet of things’ in various areas, including healthcare. Our approach unifies the fabrication and function of electronic devices with textiles, and we expect that woven-fibre materials will shape the next generation of electronics.

Large-area display textiles integrated with functional systems | Nature

Over the years there have been many R&D or art projects looking at using textile innovations in combination with electronics or lighting to create new architectural lighting concepts.

As early as the 1960’s, lighting designer Richard Kelly and his wife stitched small incandescent “grain of rice” lamps into an architectural curtain in their living room.

Richard Kelly_LightCurtain_HouseAndGarden1961

Back in 2005, Philips Research studied the combination of LEDs and e-textiles, which led to the Lumalive project at Philips Lighting.

Philips Lumalive ultimately morphed into the Philips Luminous Textiles corporate venture and product line, which itself split to include the white-light OneSpace line.

Luminous Textile panels

But the problem with the Philips venture is that it abandoned the most compelling aspect of textiles – soft flexible, draped surfaces – and pursued rigid architectural panels.

Even with readily available current LED technologies, there is so much innovation that could happen in luminous fabric concepts for architectural applications. It would be nice to see more architects exploring dramatic use of flowing, luminous forms.