• The group claims the technology can produce a thousand kilograms of graphene-based yarn in an hour.
Clothing that incorporates graphene, an innovative nanotech material derived from graphite, is said to significantly improve performance

Clothing that incorporates graphene, an innovative nanotech material derived from graphite, is said to significantly improve performance

A team of UK-based researchers has developed a method to produce scalable graphene-based yarn, using existing textile machinery and without adding to production costs.

Led by Dr Nazmul Karim and Prof. Sir Kostya Novoselov at The University of Manchester, the group, which is based at the National Graphene Institute, says the process has the potential to produce tonnes of conductive graphene-based yarn that is washable, flexible, inexpensive and biodegradable.

Clothing that incorporates graphene, an innovative nanotech material derived from graphite, is said to significantly improve performance for athletes, professionals and sports enthusiasts.

It has been considered a potentially good material for sportswear due to its high conductivity, and flexibility. Every atom in graphene is exposed to its environment allowing it to sense changes in its surroundings, making it an ideal material for sensors.

While there have been efforts to integrate textile-based sensors into garments, current manufacturing processes are complex and time-consuming, expensive, and the materials used are non-biodegradable and use unstable metallic conductive materials.

Another hindrance to the advancement of wearable e-textiles has been the bulky components required to power them. Previously it has also been difficult to incorporate these components without compromising the properties or comfort of the material, which has seen the rise of personal smart devices such as fitness watches.

Lead author Dr Shaila Afroj, who carried out the project during her PhD, explains the greatest challenge in introducing a new material such as graphene to the "very traditional and well-established textile industry" is the scalability of the manufacturing process.

"Here we overcome this challenge by producing graphene materials and graphene-based textiles using a rapid and ultrafast production process," she says. "Our reported technology to produce a thousand kilograms of graphene-based yarn in an hour is a significant breakthrough for the textile industry."

Karim, added: "High-performance clothing is going through a transformation currently, thanks to recent innovations in textiles. There has been growing interest from the textile community into utilising excellent and multifunctional properties of graphene for smart and functional clothing applications."

"We believe our ultrafast production process for graphene-based textiles would be an important step towards realising next-generation high-performance clothing."