Cotton that conducts electricity created

March 10, 2010 at 3:25 PM
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ITHACA, N.Y., March 10 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they have developed cotton threads that can conduct electricity as well as a metal wire, yet remain light and flexible enough to wear.

Researchers led by Cornell University Assistant Professor Juan Hinestroza say the technology might some day allow your T-shirt to cool you on a hot day, analyze your perspiration or monitor your heart rate. Your pillow will be able to monitor your brain waves and a dress might be able to charge an iPod or MP4 player.

The scientists say that's not science fiction -- it's cotton in 2010.

Using nanotechnology developed at Cornell in collaboration with universities at Bologna and Cagliari, Italy, Hinestroza and his colleagues developed a technique to permanently coat cotton fibers with electrically conductive nanoparticles.

"We can definitively have sections of a traditional cotton fabric becoming conductive, hence a great myriad of applications can be achieved," Hinestroza said. "Previous technologies have achieved conductivity, but the resulting fiber becomes rigid and heavy. Our new techniques make our yarns friendly to further processing, such as weaving, sewing and knitting."

A solar-powered dress using the newly developed technology will be featured Saturday during the annual Cornell Design League Fashion Show at the Ithaca, N.Y., university.

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