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Large-area display textiles integrated with functional systems

Abstract

Displays are basic building blocks of modern electronics1,2. Integrating displays into textiles offers exciting opportunities for smart electronic textiles—the ultimate goal of wearable technology, poised to change the way in which we interact with electronic devices3,4,5,6. Display textiles serve to bridge human–machine interactions7,8,9, offering, for instance, a real-time communication tool for individuals with voice or speech difficulties. Electronic textiles capable of communicating10, sensing11,12 and supplying electricity13,14 have been reported previously. However, textiles with functional, large-area displays have not yet been achieved, because it is challenging to obtain small illuminating units that are both durable and easy to assemble over a wide area. Here we report a 6-metre-long, 25-centimetre-wide display textile containing 5 × 105 electroluminescent units spaced approximately 800 micrometres apart. Weaving conductive weft and luminescent warp fibres forms micrometre-scale electroluminescent units at the weft–warp contact points. The brightness between electroluminescent units deviates by less than 8 per cent and remains stable even when the textile is bent, stretched or pressed. Our display textile is flexible and breathable and withstands repeated machine-washing, making it suitable for practical applications. We show that an integrated textile system consisting of display, keyboard and power supply can serve as a communication tool, demonstrating the system’s potential within the ‘internet of things’ in various areas, including healthcare. Our approach unifies the fabrication and function of electronic devices with textiles, and we expect that woven-fibre materials will shape the next generation of electronics.

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Fig. 1: Structure and electroluminescence performance of the display textile.
Fig. 2: Characterization of EL units of the display textile.
Fig. 3: Application scenarios of integrated textile systems.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from figshare at https://figshare.com/articles/dataset/Source_data_Display_textile_rar/13573205Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

The codes used for the integrated textile system in this study are available at https://github.com/hnsyzjianghan/textiles_display.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by MOST (2016YFA0203302), NSFC (21634003, 22075050, 21805044), STCSM (20JC1414902, 18QA1400700, 19QA1400800) and SHMEC (2017-01-07-00-07-E00062). Part of the sample fabrication was performed at the Fudan Nano-fabrication Laboratory. We thank Shanghai Mi Fang Electronics Co., Ltd for technical support of the display driving circuits, Idea Optics Co., Ltd for offering test instruments, J. Zhao for assistance in textile weaving, and A. L. Chun of Science Storylab for critically reading and editing the manuscript.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

H.P. and P.C. conceived and designed the research project. X. Shi., Y.Z. and P.Z. performed the experiments on the display textile, keyboard and integration systems. J.S., Y.Y. and Q.T. performed the simulation. Z.G. performed the experiments on photovoltaic textiles. M.L. and J. Wang performed the experiments on energy storage fibres. J. Wu and B.W. performed the durability test. X. Shi, Y.Z., P.Z. and X.X. analysed the data. B.Z., X. Sun., L.Z., Q.P., D.J. and all other authors discussed the data and wrote the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Peining Chen or Huisheng Peng.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature thanks Tilak Dias, Xiaoming Tao and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Fig. 1 Mechanical characterization of transparent conductive weft, luminescent warp and their contact area.

a, A photograph of transparent conductive wefts on a spool. Scale bar, 2 cm. b, Stress–strain curve of polyurethane ionic gel fibre. c, Transmittance of ionic gel film with thickness of 250 μm. Inset, transparent conductive weft wound on a spool. Scale bar, 2 mm. d, Photograph of luminescent warps on a spool. Scale bar, 2 cm. e, Force–strain curve of silver-plated yarn. f, Stress–strain curve of ZnS phosphor layer. g, Comparison of mechanical properties of silver-plated yarn, ZnS phosphor layer and polyurethane ionic gel fibre. h, Deformation and stress simulation in an EL unit. i, Cross-sectional scanning electron microscope image of an EL unit after embedding in resin. Scale bar, 200 μm. j, k, Photographs of display textiles co-woven with commercial nylon (PA) and polyester (PE) fibres, respectively. Scale bars, from left to right, 2 cm, 2 cm and 5 cm.

Source data

Extended Data Fig. 2 Longitudinal and circumferential homogeneity of luminescent warp.

a, Schematic illustration of continuous fabrication of luminescent warp. b, Optical image of luminescent warp. Scale bar, 1 mm. c, Cross-sectional image of luminescent warp. Scale bar, 200 μm. d, Photographs of ~100-m-long luminescent warp arranged in parallel on a board in a salt water pool. Scale bar, 10 cm. The luminescent warp was illuminated by applying an alternating voltage to the luminescent warp and salt water. The magnified area indicates the homogeneous luminescence along the fibre. Scale bar, 5 mm. e, Multicolour luminescent warps wound on a glass stick and illuminated in salt water. Scale bars, 5 mm. f, Schematic of longitudinal and circumferential direction of luminescent warp. g, Luminance distribution along the length of luminescent warp. Error bars represent the standard deviations of the results from three samples. h, Luminance distribution around the luminescent warp circumference. i, Uneven luminescent layer in the case without using the scraping micro-pinhole. Scale bars, 1 mm. j, Photograph of the display textile woven from luminescent warps with uneven coating. Scale bar, 5 mm. k, Relative emission intensities of the 10 × 10 EL unit array in j.

Source data

Extended Data Fig. 3 Durability and stability of the display textile upon folding.

al, Photographs (ad), statistical distribution of variations in luminance of EL units of a display textile containing 600 EL units (eh), and variation of the relative luminescent intensity for the EL units at the folding lines (il) when the textile was successively folded along the vertical middle line (a, e, i), horizontal middle line (b, f, j) and diagonal lines (c, g, k, d, h, l) for 10,000 cycles each. The bending radius was 1 mm. The majority of the EL units showed little change. Scale bars, 5 cm. Error bars are standard deviations of the results from six samples.

Source data

Extended Data Fig. 4 Electroluminescence performance of the display textile and EL unit.

a, Luminance–voltage curve of the display textile based on the projected area of the textile. b, c, Higher applied voltage (b) and frequency (c) increase the luminance of the EL unit. Frequency used in b was 2,000 Hz. Voltage applied in c was 1.2 V μm−1. d, e, Current density–voltage (d) and power–luminance (e) characteristics of the EL unit. The inset of e shows the test circuit for measuring the power consumption of the EL unit. f, Calibration curve showing that the grey values extracted from photographs obtained from a camera are linearly correlated with the actual luminance of the EL unit as detected by a photodetector. g, Thermal images of an EL unit illuminated for increasing durations (under a power of ~300 μW). The arrows indicate the position of the EL unit. Scale bar, 5 mm. h, Local temperature variations of EL units under a power of ~300 μW. i, Luminance–frequency curve of the EL unit working at 35 V. Thickness of the luminescent layer is ~30 μm. Error bars represent the standard deviations of the results from at least three samples.

Source data

Extended Data Fig. 5 Comparison of electric field distribution of curved and planar contact areas.

Electric field distribution in woven EL unit (ac) and traditional planar sandwiched electroluminescent devices (df). a, d, Electric field distribution. b, e, Statistics of the simulation elements on contact area according to the electric field values. c, f, Visualization of the electric field values by the height of bars. g, Electric field distributions of EL unit along with increasing contact areas.

Source data

Extended Data Fig. 6 Durability of polyurethane ionic gel fibre and EL units.

a, Luminance variations when the transparent conductive weft is rolled around its central axis. L0 and L correspond to the electroluminescence intensity before and after deformation, respectively. b, c Variation of weight (b) and electrical resistance (c) for the polyurethane ionic gel fibre in open air at room temperature (~25 °C). Here w0 and w correspond to the weights before and after exposure to the air, respectively, and R0 and R correspond to the electrical resistances before and after exposure to the air, respectively. d, Electroluminescence performance of EL units stored in open air. L0 and L correspond to the electroluminescence intensity before and after exposure to the air, respectively. e, Photograph of the standard washing machine used in the washing test. Scale bar, 20 cm. f, Photographs of the washing container before and after washing. Scale bars, 5 cm. g, Photographs (top) and emission images (bottom) show that the luminescence of EL units after 100 cycles of washing (30 min per cycle) is similar to the original unwashed fabric. Scale bars, 1 mm. h, Quantitative measurement of the luminance of EL units. Little change is seen over 100 cycles of washing and drying. L0 and L correspond to the electroluminescence intensities before and after washing, respectively. Error bars are standard deviations of the results from at least three samples.

Source data

Extended Data Fig. 7 Characterization of the textile keyboard.

a, Weave diagram of the textile keyboard (yellow: Ag-plated fibre, black: carbon fibre, blue: cotton yarn, grey: cotton yarn). b, Photograph and electrical connection of a 4 × 4 textile keyboard. The red squares indicate the positions of keys. Scale bar, 5 mm. c, Equivalent circuit of a 4 × 4 keyboard. This keyboard worked by reading the voltage between the metallic and carbon fibres (sample voltage, Vs) at an applied voltage (Vcc) of 5 V. d, Pressing responses of a key with resistance variations that were greater than four orders of magnitude. e, Working mechanism of the textile keyboard. f, Voltages (Vs) recorded by pressing individual keys one by one. The correspondence between the key position and its characteristic Vs are indicated by the coordinates in b and f.

Source data

Extended Data Fig. 8 Characterization of the textile power supply system.

a, Schematic of a woven photovoltaic unit. b, Current density–voltage characteristics of the photovoltaic unit, exhibiting a short-circuit current density of 6.32 mA cm−2 and an open-circuit voltage of 0.45 V. c, Schematic of the woven photovoltaic units connected in parallel. d, Current–voltage curve of the photovoltaic textile with increasing numbers of photoanode wefts connected in parallel. e, Schematic of the woven photovoltaic units connected in series. f, Current–voltage curve of the photovoltaic textile with increasing numbers of photoanode wefts connected in series. g, h, Photovoltaic performances at different bending angles (g) and bending cycles at bending angle of 45° (h) show <10% variation. Voc0 and Voc represent the open-circuit voltage before and after bending, respectively; Jsc0 and Jsc correspond to the photocurrent density before and after bending, respectively; and η0 and η represent the photon-to-electron conversion efficiency before and after bending, respectively. i, Scanning electron microscope images of the photoanode fibre before and after 10,000 cycles of bending appear similar. Scale bars, from left to right, 50 μm and 5 μm. j, Galvanostatic charge/discharge curves at 200 mA g−1 (based on the active material of the cathode). The battery fibre exhibited a mass capacity of 176.9 mA h g−1. k, Schematic of the working mechanism of the energy harvesting and storage module. l, Photocharge and discharge curves of the battery fibre. Six photovoltaic units in series under illumination are used to charge zinc-ion battery fibres. The battery fibres are discharged to an external circuit at a current of 80 μA. m, n, Capacity retention of the battery fibre after bending at different angles (m) and over 10,000 cycles of bending at a fixed bending angle of 45° (n). Error bars are standard deviations of the results from three samples.

Source data

Extended Data Fig. 9 Fabrication of the integrated textile system.

a, Schematic of the circuit design for the integrated textile system. b, Photograph of an integrated textile system woven on a sleeve. Scale bar, 5 cm. c, Photograph shows conductive fibres serving as connecting lines are sewn into the textile using a digital sewing machine. Scale bar, 5 mm. d, Photograph with outline showing the integrated circuit in the textile system. Scale bar, 5 cm. eg, Magnified views of the connecting lines sewn into the textile. Scale bars, 2 cm. h, i, Photographs show that the folded connecting points remain sturdy. Scale bars, 1 cm.

Extended Data Fig. 10 A large display textile measuring 24 cm × 6 cm (length × width).

Scale bars, 10 cm.

Extended Data Table 1 Comparison of the current electroluminescent textile technologies

Supplementary information

Supplementary Video 1

Demonstration of the 6-metre-long display textile: A large-area display textile woven on a rapier loom is rolled out and lightened up. The luminance of display textile remains stable when rubbed by hands.

Supplementary Video 2

Formation of EL unit when transparent conductive weft contacts with luminescent warp: Light emission occurs when the conductive weft leans, twists and knots with the luminescent warp.

Supplementary Video 3

Applications of the integrated textile system: Message is input through textile keyboard and shown on display textile. Messages are transmitted between integrated textile system and a smartphone. The display textile shows the real-time location by receiving signals from smartphone.

Source data

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Shi, X., Zuo, Y., Zhai, P. et al. Large-area display textiles integrated with functional systems. Nature 591, 240–245 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03295-8

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