MXene coating could protect wearables from EMI

Engineers in the US have shown how fabrics coated in a 2D material called MXene can block potentially dangerous electromagnetic interference and radiation.

The researchers report that fabric coated with MXene is 99.9% effective at blocking electromagnetic interference (Credit: Drexel University)

MXene was first discovered in 2011 by scientists at Philadelphia’s Drexel University. Its EMI-blocking properties were initially touted as an antidote to potential cyber threats like credit card cloning and laptop hacking. While those risks turned out to be exaggerated, the rise of wearable tech presents a new market opportunity for the material, shielding wearables form the EMI produced by smartphones.

Spray on MXene antennas turn surfaces into transmitters

"Wearable devices will need shielding from the electromagnetic interference (EMI) regularly produced by mobile devices, and that shielding should be integrated as part of the garment," said Yury Gogotsi, PhD, Distinguished University and Bach professor at Drexel, who led research recently published in the materials science journal Carbon.

"We have known for some time that MXene has the ability to block electromagnetic interference better than other materials, but this discovery shows that it can effectively adhere to fabrics and maintain its unique shielding capabilities."

MXene flakes suspended in solution naturally adhere to the fibres in conventional cotton and linen fabrics because of their electric charge. This produces a thorough and durable coating, without the need for the pre- or post-treatment processes to produce most commercial conductive yarns and fabrics. The most recent work of Gogotsi and his colleagues showed that dip-coating regular cotton or linen fabric in a MXene solution transforms it into a highly effective shielding material, blocking EMI at greater than 99.9 per cent effectiveness.

"MXenes are well-suited for use as shielding because they can be stably produced as a spray coating, an ink or a paint, so they can be applied to textiles without adding much weight or taking up more room," Gogotsi said.

"We have also discovered that MXene shielding can absorb and reflect electromagnetic waves, so it not only protects the wearable devices and electronic gadgets, but also protects people from strong electromagnetic fields."