Smart clothes have the potential to continually monitor their users´ health. But in order to drive this revolution, first we need to create flexible and transparent electrodes that comfortably adapt to the body´s movements. And this is precisely what the young Grzegorz Wróblewski has achieved thanks to his technique for coating any surface with carbon nanotubes. The electric conductivity of this component converts any surface it is applied to into an electrode, leading to Wróblewski´s inclusion in MIT Technology Review´s Innovators Under 35 Poland 2016.
His technique works similarly to "how you paint a car," Wróblewski explains. The coating is pulverized onto the target surface, regardless of its shape, size or composition. "Other techniques like printing are not easy to achieve with substrates that are not flat," the researcher adds.
To date, Wróblewski has successfully coated glass, sheets of PET, paper and textiles. The coating itself is transparent, which means that the range of possible applications for this technology could span from the manufacturing of electronic screens to smart clothing, and from solar cells to packaging products.
"In order for smart clothes to register the changes experimented by the body´s surface, the material must conform to the body and be very flexible, but the materials used to produce electrodes have lacked, until now, the necessary level of flexibility and the sensors have to be attached to the wearable," Wróblewski points out. His nanotube spray coating technique, however, converts the fabric into an electric conductor, thus turning the very garment itself into a sensor.
Currently, Wróblewski is an assistant professor at Warsaw University of Technology (Poland), but he is working towards funding a spin-off through which he aims to explore the commercial possibilities of his technique. In the eyes of Maceij Wiesner, a professor at the Adam Mickiewicz University and jury member for the Innovators Under 35 Poland 2016 awards, Wróblewski´s invention "will revolutionize the manufacturing of the electronic screens for mobile phones, computer monitors, etcetera."