2, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Wearable technology is poised to explode in the next decade. Many new devices will be garments made with advanced textiles engineered to perform specific functions. For these garments to perform as devices, it is essential that new functional fibers and yarns be designed and assembled such that they can be integrated into the textile manufacturing processes. Polymer nanofibers that have very large surface to volume ratios could potentially be used as highly sensitive health sensors that can passively diagnose body fluid. Despite the significant effort in electrospinning of polymer fibers, few have created yarns that can be knitted on industrial knitting machines. The dilemma lies in the balance between functionality and mechanical strength of the fibers/yarns. By continuous manufacturing of meter-long functional yarns from electrospun polymer fibers with embedded chemical receptors, we investigate the fiber assembly morphology, yarn architectures, and post-treatment methods to fine-tune the mechanical strength of fiber/yarns. We knit several fabric prototypes on a 3D digital knitting machine, which can change colors in response to humidity, pH, temperature, and electrolytes.