Imec leads development of stretchable electronic fabrics

Belgian research institute Imec is leading a €9m project aimed at developing smart textiles that can be manufactured in high volume.

The four-year project dubbed PASTA (integrating Platform for Advanced Smart Textile Applications) brings together a variety of European industrial and academic players. The effort is funded in part by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme, which contributed €6.5m (£5.7m). 

Johan De Baets, leading the research from Imec, said PASTA differs from other smart textile projects because it will focus more on making electronic packages conformable to the properties of textiles instead of just weaving rigid electrical components into fabrics.

The effort will build on the results of STELLA, the EU-funded stretchable electronic development programme.

PASTA will demonstrate a conductive fibre with small micromachined silicon dyes integrated into the yarn. With the knowledge gained from STELLA, the fabric will include a stretchable interposer that will serve as a stress-relief interface between the rigid component and elastic fabric. The fabric will also feature stretchable electrical interconnections.

De Baets said this new type of electrical component integration will hopefully make high-volume manufacturing of smart textiles possible. There is even potential for it being produced through roll-to-roll manufacturing.

PASTA will demonstrate the use of the technology in a variety of ways. Some examples include LED integrated fabrics for safety signs, strain-gauge embedded textiles for safety monitoring, bright light shirts for visibility when cycling and humidity-detecting hospital bed sheets.

In addition to Imec, PASTA participants include France’s Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives, Association Pôle Européen de Plasturgie and Sport Soie SAS; Germany’s Fraunhofer IZM, STFI, ETTLIN Spinnerei und Weberei Produktions GmbH & Co KG and Peppermint Holding GmbH; and Switzerland’s Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique.

PASTA Integration concept
PASTA Integration concept