Galvorn carbon nanomaterials for next-gen smart textiles


Smart textiles are ushering in an exciting new era of tech-enabled clothing and gear–from smart socks that detect anxiety to military gear that can quietly navigate troops.

Also known as electronic textiles, e-textiles “integrate the comfort and appearance of conventional fibers/textiles with the functions of electronic devices.” These textiles that feature electrically-conductive parts can transform everything from sports, to healthcare, to military operations, and beyond. 

Modern textiles must satisfy our age-old need for durability and comfort, as well as our increasing desire for connectivity. Though many e-textile products are currently on the market today, performance issues  and durability concerns have hamstrung widespread adoption.

“It’s harder to convince people to spend a couple of hundred on a t-shirt that you can’t wash and will need more than one of, when one smartwatch or one fit bit can do the same thing with no washing,” says Matthew Dyson, Principal Technology Analyst at IDTechEx in his co-authored report, e-textiles and Smart Clothing Markets 2023-2033: Technologies, Players, and Applications.

Below, we discuss the immense potential of smart fabrics as well as their limitations. We also explore how using Galvorn in smart textiles can enhance quality, performance, and adoption

What are e-textiles?

Some say that the advent of modern e-textiles was a 1968 exhibit at New York's Museum of Contemporary Craft. The exhibit, Body Covering, displayed “a series of electric garments with functions such as heating and cooling.” 

1968 body covering exhibit - dress
1968 body covering exhibit - jacket

In the years since this seminal exhibit, e-textiles have made huge technological advancements, carrying with it immense potential that continues to grow. 

According to a recent report from Research and Markets, “the global market for wearable technology is anticipated to grow and reach > $118.16 billion by 2028.”

So, how did we get from the 1960s futurist fashion to where we are today in wearable tech? 

Essentially, there have been three phases or generations of of e-textiles to date: 

  • First generation: Sensors were attached to the clothing.
  • Second generation: Sensors were embedded in the garment.
  • Third generation: The garment becomes the sensor.

E-textiles are made by weaving, knitting, or embroidering fibers into fabrics, or embedding nanoparticles directly into fabrics. To ensure peak performance, and ultimately wider adoption, e-textiles must possess certain qualities, such as  breathability, flexibility, and durability when washed. 

There are countless current applications for e-textiles–and the sky's the limit for their future potential. Below are just a handful of examples. 

Today’s smart textiles face limitations

Smart textiles are new and exciting, but there are limits to the products that are on the market today. 

Today's e-textile products are challenged by  the fabric itself, particularly regarding its flexibility, weight, and durability. The choice of inputs into the resulting fabric must balance these concerns alongside the requirement of conductivity.

Comfort: The fabric needs to be flexible for comfort and wearability of the garment, as well as to ensure accurate readings, and ease of manufacture. 

Weight: Weight can be a challenge for conductive garments, especially for sports, healthcare, and military use. The garment needs to be light and comfortable to wear. 

Durability: The ability to withstand repeated stretching, wear, and washing is also essential. Some smart textiles available today may lack waterproofing and may sustain damage when washed. 

Manufacturing complexity: Smart textiles can be expensive to produce because of the complex manufacturing process. This can be a significant concern for both the manufacturer and the buyer.

Galvorn-enabled smart textiles

Galvorn, a high-performance carbon nanomaterial, can improve smart clothes with its unique properties. 

Galvorn yarn can be handled like a textile thread. It can be woven together with conventional yarns to make clothing that has complex electronic functionality without sacrificing comfort or adding weight.

Galvorn is also a great choice for textiles because it can be recycled and has a carbon-negative impact at scale. This has important implications for the fashion industry, currently under scrutiny for its environmental impact. 

At a glance, here’s how Galvorn rises above the rest: 

  • Conductivity: This is essential to the primary function of e-textiles. 
    • Galvorn is 10 times more conductive per unit weight than stainless steel thread, with a track record of doubling its conductivity (and strength) every three years.
    • As this video demonstrates, Galvorn yarns and films can be made into capacitive touch sensing pads directly incorporated into any fabric. Any parts of the design of a piece of clothing might then double as built-in touch-sensitive buttons.
  • Lightweight: Improves on comfort and wearability of e-textile products.
    • Galvorn is one-third the weight of silver coated polymer fibers. But it’s not just lightweight, it’s also 30x stronger than aluminum, weight for weight. 
  • Flexible: Greater possibilities for both applications and longevity.
    • Unlike other metals that cannot withstand repeated bending without breaking, Galvorn boasts more than 1M flex life cycles.
  • Durable/washable: In prototype garments electrodes constructed from Galvorn yarn demonstrated the capacity to gather superior ECG data from users over extended durations. Moreover, they endured 6 wash cycles without any deterioration in their electrical characteristics. 

Another study found that after ten wash cycles, there was no degradation in performance of the carbon nanotube (CNT) threads. Because CNTs do not oxidize or tarnish easily in water, it is expected that further testing will show that this remains the case over many more wash cycles.

EKG prototype using Galvorn for electrodes
  • Biocompatible: Ensures the safety and functionality of wearable electronic garments. 
    • Galvorn is inherently non-toxic. 
    • As a carbon nanomaterial it can form a good electrical connection with electrolytic fluids, such as saline or other fluids in the body. 
    • The fibers are soft, flexible, and durable making them useful as electrodes that can potentially be implanted in the body. 
  • Strong: Weight for weight, Galvorn (at 2 N/tex) is 10x stronger than some of the strongest forms of steel–and 30x stronger than stainless steel and other common structural steels.
    • Yet for all its strength it’s less than ¼ the density. 
    • With its superior strength, Galvorn can be spun into thinner threads, maintaining both strength and flexibility of the resulting garment.
  • Cut resistant, with the potential to be bullet proof: This carries exciting implications for use in military operations.
    • Galvon’s superior strength and ability to dissipate energy when indented with a blade makes it a good choice for cut-resistant gear. Galvorn fibers have significantly higher cut resistance than Kevlar, Dyneema, and even S2 glass fibers. 
    • That high specific energy of Galvorn fibers has the potential for applications in ballistic armor as well, with the added benefit of being lightweight and flexible–comfort and protection!
  • Environmentally friendly: As an added bonus, unlike mined or emissions-intensive alternatives, such as copper, silver, gold, or steel, Galvorn is an environmentally-friendly input–carbon negative at scale. 

However, Galvorn’s true power lies in its combination of historically-valued properties, outperforming GHG-intense alternatives across a multitude of applications. The material is conductive, 10x stronger than steel, half the weight of aluminum, and has 100x the flex life of copper and carbon fiber. It is also cut-resistant, flame-resistant, biocompatible, and recyclable.

Because of these highly-valued properties, Galvorn’s potential applications are virtually limitless. For one, Galvorn can be used to produce lightweight wiring, specifically for EMI shielding in sensitive data cabling and in short data cables. Replacing copper with Galvorn would reduce the overall cable mass, while reducing the use of the scarce standard material.

Because of its conductivity, Galvorn is a great choice to produce conductive textiles and composites, such as conductive automotive interiors. Galvorn conductive fibers and yarns can be woven or sewn into upholstery, as well as used as the reinforcing fiber in composites.

Galvorn is also an environmentally-friendly alternative that is carbon-negative at scale. Though steel, aluminum, and copper are ubiquitous, they contribute an estimated 8% of global emissions (3750 MTCO2). Simply making things “greener” isn’t enough.

A key to tomorrow’s e-textile expansion

Smart textiles have the potential to revolutionize our lives: from the mundane, such as how we keep our homes at a comfortable temperature; to the high-stakes, such as how we keep patients healthy and soldiers safe in the field. 

But the host of exciting products already on the market today have drawbacks that include manufacturing difficulties, as well as limitations in durability and comfort.

Galvorn presents a durable, flexible, biocompatible alternative to the business-as-usual approach, opening up a world of possibilities and future e-textile applications.

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