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Researchers have successfully printed electronic circuits onto fabric

And because they’re breathable, stretchable and washable, the implications could be huge for wearable electronics and smart textiles.

The world of wearables has suddenly got more exciting. Now, it’s possible to incorporate stretchable, breathable and – crucially – washable electronic circuits into clothing. 

The breakthrough comes after University of Cambridge researchers – working with teams in Italy and China – showed how graphene can be printed directly onto fabric to create comfortable-to-wear circuits capable of withstanding 20 cycles in a washing machine.

This contrasts with existing wearables, most of which aren’t breathable and can’t be washed because they rely on rigid electronic components that have to be mounted on textiles, plastic or rubber.

“Digital textile printing has been around for decades to print simple colourants on textiles, but our result demonstrates for the first time that such technology can also be used to print the entire electronic integrated circuits on textiles,” explained Professor Roman Sordan, the report’s co-author.

“Although we demonstrated very simple integrated circuits, our process is scalable and there are no fundamental obstacles to the technological development of wearable electronic devices both in terms of their complexity and performance.”