Conjugated Polymer-based Conductive Fibers for Smart Textile Applications

Abstract: Electrically conductive or electro-active fibers are the key components of smart and interactive textiles, which could be used in medical, sports, energy, and military applications in the near future. The functionalization of high-performance textile yarns/fibers with conjugated polymers can produce conductive fibers with better electro-mechanical properties, which is difficult with commonly used spinning techniques. In this thesis work, textile-based conductive yarns/fibers were prepared by coating viscose and polyester (PET) yarns with the conjugated polymer PEDOT. For coating purposes, an efficient technique called chemical vapor deposition (CVD) was used, which is a solventless technique and can produce PEDOT polymer layers with high conductivity values. The polymerization of EDOT monomer vapors and coating of oxidant (FeCl3 or FepTS) enriched viscose and PET yarns took place simultaneously. The PEDOT-coated viscose and polyester yarns showed relatively high conductivity values, which could be sufficient for many electronic applications. The polymerization process and the quality of PEDOT polymer strongly depends on different reaction conditions. In this research work, the impact of most of these reaction parameters on the electrical, mechanical, and thermal properties of PEDOT-coated conductive yarns was considered separately. Under specific reaction conditions, it was found that viscose fibers were successfully coated with PEDOT polymer and showed rather high electrical conductivity (≥ 15 S/cm). However, due to the acid hydrolysis of viscose fibers in FeCl3 solutions, the mechanical properties were drastically reduced. In order to improve the mechanical properties of conductive yarns, a relatively stable and chemical-resistant substrate (PET) was coated with PEDOT polymer. Comparative studies between PEDOT-coated viscose and PET conductive yarns showed that the electrical and mechanical properties were enhanced by changing the substrate material. Later on, PEDOT-coated conductive fibers were treated with silicone elastomer solution and due to the thin silicone layers, the hydrophobic properties, flexibility, and durability of coated yarns was improved. Furthermore, a novel electrical resistance-measuring setup was developed, which can be used not only for fibers but also for fabric structures. The electrical characterization of PEDOT-coated conductive yarns showed that it can be used effectively for sensitive fibers without damaging their surface morphology. Finally, the use of conductive yarns as stretch sensors was evaluated. For this purpose, small rectangular knitted patches of conductive yarns were prepared and then the change in electrical resistance values at different extension percentages (5–50%) was investigated. The constant variations in electrical resistance values at different extension and relaxation cycles for longer periods of time revealed that the conductive yarns produced have the potential to be used as stretch sensors for monitoring of vital signs in medical and sports applications.