OSU: Textile Meets Tech

Researchers are working to develop wearable electronics have reached a milestone: They are able to embroider circuits into fabric with 0.1 mm precision—the perfect size to integrate electronic components such as sensors and computer memory devices into clothing.

With this advance, the Ohio State University researchers have taken the next step toward the design of functional textiles—clothes that gather, store, or transmit digital information. With further development, the technology could lead to shirts that act as antennas for your smart phone or tablet, workout clothes that monitor your fitness level, sports equipment that monitors athletes’ performance, a bandage that tells your doctor how well the tissue beneath it is healing—or even a flexible fabric cap that senses activity in the brain.

That last item is one that John Volakis, director of the ElectroScience Laboratory at Ohio State, and research scientist Asimina Kiourti are investigating. The idea is to make brain implants, which are under development to treat conditions from epilepsy to addiction, more comfortable by eliminating the need for external wiring on the patient’s body.

Recently, he and Kiourti refined their patented fabrication method to create prototype wearables at a fraction of the cost and in half the time as they could only two years ago. With new patents pending, they published the new results in the journal IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters.

Buckeyes In Space

Well, almost. The Ohio State University’s ElectroScience Laboratory – or ESL – played a major role in designing and building the most physically prominent feature of NASA’s New Horizons space probe – the high gain antenna dish.

This probe was designed to study Pluto in detail, the first to do so in our human history.

Launched on Jan. 19, 2006, the New Horizons probe had essentially been in hibernation mode for the past several years. Which basically means it is traveling about one million miles a day or 31,000 miles per hour. The probe has just passed by Pluto, on July 14th, 2015 and will now continue its journey of the outer solar system.

The high gain antennas provide very precise targeting of radio signals – the one that the Ohio State University ESL helped develop – is one of seven instruments gathering information and transmitting the data back to earth. In fact, without the ESL high gain antenna the mission would not have been possible as NASA wouldn’t have been able to communicate with the probe.

More information about the mission and the probe is available at NASA’s website.