How can Semiconductors be Embedded in Fabrics?

Semiconductor-embedded fabric is enabling a number of industries, such as defense and medical, to record and process critical data.


FREMONT, CA: Researchers have taken massive leaps in the past few years to develop fabrics that can be embedded with semiconductors for protective as well as aesthetic purposes. According to Design News, the inclusion of semiconductors or sensors into fabrics will support the design of smart clothing. Technologists have coupled high-speed optoelectronic semiconductor devices with fabrics that were then transformed into soft, washable-fabrics. Such fabrics can be used as high-tech communication systems. 


Semiconductors can be integrated into textiles in one of the three ways. The first means of integrating semiconductors and textiles require the electrical components to be mounted directly onto the surface of garments. However, the electronics do not form a part of the structure of the fabrics. The second method of integrating semiconductor and fabrics involves weaving, knitting, and embroidery to add electronic functionality. The main focus on the use of conductive fibers aims to create conductive pathways or electrodes like fabric transducers, sensor fabrics, and a wearable motherboard. The third means to integrate semiconductor components and fabric involves electronic components and sensors getting incorporated as electronic yarns (or E-yarn) of poor tensile strength. The poor tensile strength of the yarns can be attributed to the inability to extract the filaments soon after extrusion without affecting the copper wire interconnects.


The first two means of integrating semiconductor and textiles altered the material of the fiber partially or wholly. The major advantage of using an E-yarn is that it only minimally alters the quality of the fabric materials. Another benefit of creating an E-yarn is that the yarn properties can be retained to a larger extent than when utilizing other materials. The key applications of semiconductor-embedded fabrics include military as well as the biomedical sector, where the technology is used to measure blood-oxygen levels and pulse.