Conductive Textile

conductive thread


A conductive textile is a fabric which can conduct electricity. Conductive textiles can be made with metal strands woven into the construction of the textile. There is also an interest in semiconducting textiles, made by impregnating normal textiles with carbon- or metal-based powders.

Conductive fibers consist of a non-conductive or less conductive substrate, which is then either coated or embedded with electrically conductive elements, often carbon, nickel, copper, gold, silver, or titanium. Substrates typically include cotton, polyester, nylon, and stainless steel to high performance synthetic fibers like Kevlar and Zylon. Straddling the worlds of textiles and wires, conductive fibers are sold either by weight or length, and measured in gauge.

Because of the rapid growth in the kinds of conductive fibers and the uses of these fibers, a trade association–the ‘Conductive Fiber Manufacturers Council’–was formed to increase awareness, utilization, and possibly standardize terminology. Applications include static dissipation, EMI shielding, signal and power transfer in low resistance versions, and as a heating element in higher resistance versions. Their benefits over solid or stranded metal wires come from conductive fibers’ flexibility and ability to use them in existing textile and wire machinery (weaving, knitting, braiding, etc.).

One major use is by Micro-Coax’s Aracon fiber, built on a Kevlar base, and used for shielding cabling in air- and spacecraft and other specialty purposes where light weight, high strength, and high-frequency shielding is imperative. Another more recent use is in the production of ‘stun gun’ or Taser-proof clothing, where the conductive textile forms a flexible Faraday cage in a layer of the garment. Conductive fabric can also be used to make electrodes for EEG and other medical applications; such electrodes were used in a commercially available sleep-monitoring device made by former company Zeo, Inc. Highly conductive stainless steel fiber is available.

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