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5th January 2015, Nottingham

NTU shares in £20 million to manufacture fibres of the future

Researchers from the Nottingham Trent University’s Advanced Textiles Research Group (ATRG) headed by Professor Tilak Dias will work with Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at the University of Southampton on a project to develop the textile fibres of the future. The project has been awarded funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop novel manufacturing methods for wearable technology and is one of 10 projects to receive a slice of the £20 million funding pot. £2.8million has been awarded overall to both universities with the ATRG at Nottingham Trent University receiving around £1.2m.

Embedding electronics

The project will further ATRG’s work on embedding electronics, such as LEDs, sensors and micro-controllers directly into yarns, which can then be made into any number of products, from clothes to car seats, the University reports.

The project will further ATRG’s work on embedding electronics. © Nottingham Trent University

The funds are expected to allow the group to improve its product by making the yarns even finer, allowing production of things such as shirts with built in yet invisible sensors, micro-controllers and communication devices.

The funding for the four-year project, which starts in March 2015, will also enable Nottingham Trent University to develop the machinery it needs to begin a medium-scale manufacturing unit for the fibre electronics.

Second industrial revolution

“I believe that fibre electronics will initiate a second industrial revolution in textiles,” commented Professor Tilak Dias, who heads up the ATRG at Nottingham Trent University.

“We are confident we have developed the platform technology for future electronic textiles and this project will build on the results gained to date by ourselves and ECS in order to revolutionise the way that smart and interactive textiles are produced. The end result will offer a greater level of functionality that is far beyond the state of the art.”

The funding for the four-year project will also enable Nottingham Trent University to develop the machinery to begin a medium-scale manufacturing unit for the fibre electronics. © Nottingham Trent University

Currently the group works with electronic components in the form of packaged dies. However, the group now wants to work with a stripped down bare die, which would allow it to make yarns which are 0.2mm in diameter rather than the current 0.9mm it can produce. It will also mean more complex circuits can be made which would improve the variety of functions the fibres can perform.

Fantastic opportunity

“This presents a fantastic opportunity to further the developments we have made towards the practical integration of electronics and sensing functionality in textiles,” commented Professor Steve Beeby from the Electronics and Electrical Engineering Group within Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton.

Welcoming the announcement Business Secretary, Vince Cable, said: “Working with academia and industry to support game-changing manufacturing projects like these is at the heart of the Government’s industrial strategy.”

“By supporting the jump from the manufacturing lab to the market place, we are driving innovation, creating valuable new jobs and delivering economic growth that will secure the UK’s global leadership for decades to come.”

www.ntu.ac.uk

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