The Nano-EXtended Textiles (NEXT) aims to leverage nanotechnology materials and processing methods in to impart new characteristics to polymer films and fibers, with a specific focus on electronic and electro-optical modifications. Such an investigation requires a engineering design philosophy to be applied toward the ‘system-level’ development of the textiles and electronics to advance our technologies beyond the lab. Of particular interest to the NEXT team is the design of ‘smart’ textile platforms (wearable,internet of things) that enable improved materials integration of sensors, energy harvesting, energy storage, and communication devices. Three areas of activity define the “Technology Innovation through Engineering Design” approach to the NEXT research team include:
Materials Innovation: Our team studies materials that are commercially available from parallel supply chains (such as printed electronics) in order to understand opportunities for novel textile electronics. We also explore cutting-edge nanomaterials and processes that our research our team envisions as being used in the next generation of textile electronics.
Textile Electronic Systems: Our team also develops close-to-market strategies for textile electronic system designs for a wide range of wearable and IoT applications. To accomplish this, we develop full system demonstration platforms to study the impact of the textile on the device, and vice versa. This has includes system level designs & human trial testing for bio-metric sensing, human body energy harvesting, and active heating and cooling systems. Through these studies we engage in understanding the human use case scenario of these devices and apply them to the development of standards.
Project-Based Education: The activity of the NEXT research team in textile electronics elicits visions of the height of traditional textile manufacturing practice in the United States with the potential of what is possible with the advent of our current electronic technology revolution. Therefore, the research team has a well-crafted a vision for education extension and public engagement that integrates with our ‘hands-on’ textile electronic research activities. This includes industry-engaged project based learning in engineering design as well as working with regional K-12 STEM programs for engineering design education toward the development of animal-specific wearable technologies.