Red Wine Is the Secret Ingredient for New Wearable Tech

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When red wine is introduced to clothing, it normally spells disaster for the wearer.

Whether it is baking soda, gin or dish soap, everybody has a genius life hack to remove red wine from a white shirt.

But researchers at the University of Manchester have worked out that they can create flexible, durable and more cost-effective wearable technology, simply by dipping components into red wine, coffee or black tea.

The team now believe that tannic acids found in these popular drinks can kick-start a wearable technology revolution.

Bittersweet Wearable Tech

Organic tannins, which give drinks like wine, coffee and tea a bitter taste, can be used to improve the flexibility and durability of sensors used on wearable technology.

Manchester University scientists successfully used the organic substance to create wearable capacitive breath sensors and artificial hands that can survive in extreme conditions.

One problem that wearable tech designers have had to grapple with over the years is that the technology is susceptible to repeated bending, spiralling and folding.

These kinds of repetitive movements can create tiny micro-cracks in conductive surfaces, hampering the flow of electricity.

The Manchester scientists say that using tannins could open the door to improved performance after bending, folding and stretching – with better durability for wearable devices.

And using natural sources means that makers can user more comfortable fabrics like cotton rather than nylon, which can be stiff and uncomfortable.

Crucially, when the team immersed fabric directly in red wine, black tea and black coffee, they were able to achieve the same results as when they used commercially available tannins.

With this approach, wearable tech prices could come down as the devices become more comfortable and robust.

Dr Xuqing Liu who led the research team said: “We are using this method to develop new flexible, breathable, wearable devices. The main research objective of our group is to develop comfortable wearable devices for flexible human-machine interface.

“Traditional conductive material suffers from weak bonding to the fibres which can result in low conductivity. When red wine, or coffee, or black tea, is sprinkled on a dress, it will be difficult to get rid of these stains.

“The main reason is that they all contain tannic acid, which can firmly adsorb the material on the surface of the fibre. This good adhesion is exactly what we need for durable wearable, conductive devices.”

Hi5 Electronics is a prototype PCB manufacturer based in Oldham, Greater Manchester. For more information, speak to a member of the team. Call: 01706 647 006

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