Philips Research has unveiled its experimental fabrics that can emit light using multicolored light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Christened photonic textiles - fabrics that contain lighting systems and can therefore serve as displays - Philips claims the textiles lose none of their softness in the process.

Working with textile institute TITV Greiz, Philips Research has developed an interconnecting LED filled substrate made entirely of cloth.

LEDs are placed on the substrate in such everyday objects as cushions, backpacks, and floor mats. Since the fabric covering the miniature light sources naturally diffuses light, each pixel seems bigger than it actually is. The LEDs, therefore, remain small and unobtrusive, while the fabric retains its soft look and feel says Phillips.

The same researchers from have also created flexible and drapable substrates from plastics and films.

While the development of photonic textiles is still in its infancy Phillips says there are wide applications in the fields of ambient lighting, communication, and personal health care and the company envisions partnerships with interior and apparel brands in the near future.

By Michael Fitzpatrick.