Metallisation of Textiles to make Urban living for Older people more Independent and Fashionable
European Union Horizon 2020, research and innovation programme no 760789
Coventry University (lead), Eurocarers, UPH-Siedlce, CTCR, Pitillos, Luksja, IFTH, ITAINNOVA, Bertin Aubert Industries, A-GAS Electronic Materials Ltd, Printed Electronics Ltd, Muebleconfort, EMO Design, Plasmachem, University of Maribor, ISN, Age Platform Europe, GEDS, IPM2, SensingTex
Duration of project
January 2018 - May 2021
The MATUROLIFE (Metallisation of Textiles to make Urban living for Older people more Independent and Fashionable) project led by Coventry University (UK), which is funded by the European Commission and involves 20 partners from 9 countries is a unique multi-disciplinary project that will bring electrochemists, materials scientists and experts in electronic manufacturing processes together with creative and artistic designers to produce smart textiles and fabrics with the aim of revolutionising assistive technology (AT) for older people.
With an increase in the ageing population across Europe there is a huge and growing demand for AT. However, such devices are rarely designed with fashion, aesthetics or discretion in mind marking the user out as vulnerable and ‘older’. Obtaining the opinions and desires of older people will therefore be central to the MATUROLIFE project, which will utilise a design management approach embedding creative artists and designers and their methods throughout the project. Product development will ensure embedding of emotional design principles and adoption of a co-creation approach. Thus, older people will influence the design of AT ensuring it is functional, meets their needs and requirements and is aesthetically pleasing and desirable.
Electronic or ‘smart’ textiles represent a potentially high growth area for electronics manufacturing. There are a number of ways to make textiles and fabrics conductive including knitting or weaving in conductive threads or metal wires or printing conductive inks onto such materials. However, it is arguable whether such an approach can produce electronics that are truly integrated into the textile as conventional metal wires change the feel and drape of the material and make them stiff and less flexible. Simply attaching electronic components to a textile makes them heavier and uncomfortable to wear.
MATUROLIFE takes an alternative approach to introducing electronic connectivity to textiles and fabrics. Catalysts will be developed that can be selectively deposited onto textiles and fabrics enabling subsequent metallisation processes to fully coat fibres within the textiles with copper thus producing a truly multi-functional material. The feel and drape of the textile is maintained with very little increase in weight whilst the material can still be bent and twisted in the same way as a conventional textile.
The overall objective of MATUROLIFE is to use creative and artistic design and advanced materials innovations to produce 3 Assistive Technology prototypes that will make urban living for older people easier, more independent, fashionable and comfortable.
The advanced materials innovations developed in the MATUROLIFE project will give creative and artistic designers the tools to produce designs and creative solutions that are:
- Novel: MATUROLIFE will develop a versatile smart textile process and take a highly novel approach to design in that the views, opinions, needs and creative ideas of older people living in an urban environment will inform novel AT design.
- User-centric solutions: Empowerment of older people to co-develop AT to meet their wants, needs and priorities will ensure desirable and acceptable solutions.
- Higher added-value: Taking on-board the ideas and needs of older people, the creative SMEs will design AT that addresses the under-use and abandonment of AT by older people ensuring the higher added value of good acceptance, satisfaction, ease of operability but also desirability. This will reduce AT wastage and improve health outcomes.
- Better performing: By encapsulating the fibres within a textile with electroless plated metal a truly multi-functional material will be produced with the feel and comfort of a textile which can be twisted, stretched and washed without loss of performance and the high conductivity (<1 W/sq) required for electronic connectivity. Even more functionality will be achieved by using final finishes and functional dyes on the textile which will make the textiles respond to external stimuli such as sweat pH and body temperature.
- Sustainable: MATUROLIFE will employ sustainable design principles using materials that are from renewable resources, which can be recycled and have a low environmental impact. The process for the metallisation of textiles and fabrics will use CuNP as the catalyst rather than silver or CRMs such as palladium. Copper is widely and easily recycled (in Europe 41% of the demand for copper is met from recycling) and it is more naturally abundant and cheaper than silver or palladium.
- Versatile: pioneering research at CU has shown that polyesters, cottons, linen, lycra, viscose, silk and nylon can be successfully metallised using electroless copper. This will give the designers the versatility to work with a wide range of textiles and fabrics. In addition, the selective metallisation process developed in MATUROLIFE will be able to be applied at the end of textile treatment. Since cutting fabrics involves applying heat, a process where the conductive tracks are created at the end of the textile treatment is preferable and gives the design team more options.
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