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Gold coating helps illuminate hosiery

Electrodes made from pantyhose are the basis of light-emitting fabrics that can stretch and change display patterns

by Bethany Halford
March 7, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 9

Light-up fabric in the pattern of a smiley face, a rectangular spiral, and the number 8.
Credit: Matter
Patterns on stretchable, light-emitting fabric made from gold-coated pantyhose

Pantyhose might soon be on the cutting edge of fashion, thanks to new light-emitting textiles created from the much-maligned staple of women’s wear. Light-up fabrics typically incorporate hard components, like wires, diodes, and optical fibers. But these parts make the materials rigid and difficult to clean. Tricia Breen Carmichael and her team at the University of Windsor discovered they could make electrodes for light-emitting materials by coating sheer hose with gold (Matter 2020, DOI: 10.1016/j.matt.2020.01.017). They used a solution-based process to create a golden coating for nylon or spandex that’s just 100 nm thick. The electrodes retain the intrinsic semitransparency and stretch of the underlying textile. To make the light-emitting textile, they sandwich an emissive layer—a film of ZnS:Cu-Ecoflex composite—between two of their gold-coated electrodes. What’s more, the researchers can pattern the textiles to produce logos or other shapes and can also create dynamic displays that can, for example, show the numbers zero to nine. The fabrics maintain the ability to illuminate after 10 cycles of mild washing and oven drying. In addition to providing light-up looks for the runway, garments incorporating these light-emitting fabrics could be used by first responders, nighttime construction workers, and bikers and runners who train after dark.


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