Last February, the Science Foundation Ireland centre for Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research (AMBER) based at Trinity College Dublin unveiled a newcomer in the materials science space. The ink-based nanomaterial dubbed MXene was described as being a boon to the electric vehicle industry by significantly boosting the cars’ average range.

Now, in a paper published to Nature Communications, lead investigator of the project Prof Valeria Nicolosi and her team revealed how the nanomaterial could also herald a revolution in the wearables space.

Recent figures released by the International Data Corporation show that the market for wearables continues to remain strong, but is also growing. Globally, the market grew by 31.4pc in Q4 2018, with as many as 172.2m devices shipped over the entirety of last year.

The AMBER team believes MXene could be used to address the energy supply issue in future wearables, particularly in things such as smart textiles.

As these wearables are much slimmer and require a variety of different shapes, powering them has so far been a challenge. Typically, these devices are powered by a detachable, cumbersome battery pack, but Nicolosi claims MXene could do away with this.

“With our new research, we have demonstrated that we can manufacture energy storage devices (supercapacitors) that can be easily 3D printed on virtually any substance and on any shape or pattern,” she said.

“This new study effectively demonstrates how a readily scalable technology can be used for the development of inexpensive and high-performance energy storage devices. This could have huge potential for the development of the next generation of smart wearables and even textile electronics.”
Among the possible functionalities of new smart wearable electronics include heat regulation, luminescence, touch and sensitivity. Such possibilities could bring benefits to a number of different areas including healthcare, sports, space exploration and gaming.

Colm Gorey

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