Smart fabrics offer the potential for a new generation of soft robotics and wearable technologies through the fusion of smart materials, textiles and electrical circuitries. Conductive and stretchable textiles have inherent compliance and low resistance that are suitable for driving artificial muscle actuators and are potentially safer electrode materials for soft actuation technologies. We demonstrate how soft electroactive actuating structures can be designed and fabricated from conducting textiles. We first quantitatively analyse a range of stretchable conductive textiles for dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs). We found that conductive-knit textiles are more suitable for unidirectional DEA applications due to the largest difference (150%) in principle strain axes, whereas isotropic textiles are more suited to bidirectional DEA applications due to the smallest (11.1%) principle strain difference. Finally, we demonstrate controllable breathability through a planar e-textile DEA-driven skin and show thermal regulation in a wearable prototype that exploits soft actuation and kirigami.
Keywords: breathability; conductive textile; dielectric elastomer actuator; wearable device.