The entire piece is a nice very short primer on the concept of smart textiles, but real news is a breakthrough in the very fibers smart textiles are woven from.
From the link:
But that’s a fiddly, time-consuming process. One thing that could help is more useful fibres. And today Jian Feng Gu from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China and couple of buddies reveal one that could help.
Their idea is to create a simple rolled capacitor from a sheet of conducting polymer sandwiched between two insulating sheets of low density polyethylene. They then roll this sandwich into a cylinder and encase it in high density polyethylene.
There’s nothing unusual about this kind of rolled capacitor. But what Gu and co do next is. They heat it and then extrude it through a tiny hole to form a fibre with a diameter of less than a millimetre.
If the conditions are just right, the plastics all stretch in exactly the same way so that the internal structure of the fibre is just a smaller version of the original.
And that’s exactly what happens. Gu and co say their fibre is soft and flexible and has a capacitance some 1000 times greater than an equivalent co-axial cable.