ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

Electronic textiles are a vanguard of an emerging generation of smart products. They consist of small electronic devices that are seamlessly embedded into clothing and technical textiles. E-textiles provide enhanced functions in a variety of unobtrusive and convenient ways. Like many high-tech products, e-textiles may evolve to become a mass market in the future. In this case, large amounts of difficult-to-recycle products will be discarded. That can result in new waste problems. This article examines the possible end-of-life implications of textile-integrated electronic waste. As a basis for assessment, the innovation trends of e-textiles are reviewed, and an overview of their material composition is provided. Next, scenarios are developed to estimate the magnitude of future e-textile waste streams. On that base, established disposal and recycling routes for e-waste and old textiles are assessed in regard to their capabilities to process a blended feedstock of electronic and textile materials. The results suggest that recycling old e-textiles will be difficult because valuable materials are dispersed in large amounts of heterogeneous textile waste. Moreover, the electronic components can act as contaminants in the recycling of textile materials. We recommend scrutinizing the innovation trend of technological convergence from the life cycle perspective. Technology developers and product designers should implement waste preventative measures at the early phases in the development process of the emerging technology.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Prospective Impacts of
Electronic Textiles on
Recycling and Disposal
Andreas R. K¨
ohler, Lorenz M. Hilty, and Conny Bakker
electronic waste
end-of-life treatment
industrial ecology
pervasive computing
smart textiles
wearable computing
Supporting information is available
on the JIE Web site
Address Correspondence to:
Andreas R. K¨
Delft University of Technology
Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering
Design for Sustainability Program
Landbergstraat 15
2628 CE Delft
The Netherlands
2011 by Yale University
DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-9290.2011.00358.x
Volume 15, Number 4
Electronic textiles are a vanguard of an emerging generation of
smart products. They consist of small electronic devices that
are seamlessly embedded into clothing and technical textiles.
E-textiles provide enhanced functions in a variety of unob-
trusive and convenient ways. Like many high-tech products,
e-textiles may evolve to become a mass market in the future.
In this case, large amounts of difficult-to-recycle products will
be discarded. That can result in new waste problems.
This article examines the possible end-of-life implications
of textile-integrated electronic waste. As a basis for assess-
ment, the innovation trends of e-textiles are reviewed, and
an overview of their material composition is provided. Next,
scenarios are developed to estimate the magnitude of future
e-textile waste streams. On that base, established disposal and
recycling routes for e-waste and old textiles are assessed in
regard to their capabilities to process a blended feedstock of
electronic and textile materials. The results suggest that recy-
cling old e-textiles will be difficult because valuable materials
are dispersed in large amounts of heterogeneous textile waste.
Moreover, the electronic components can act as contaminants
in the recycling of textile materials.
We recommend scrutinizing the innovation trend of tech-
nological convergence from the life cycle perspective. Tech-
nology developers and product designers should implement
waste preventative measures at the early phases in the devel-
opment process of the emerging technology.
496 Journal of Industrial Ecology
Electronic textiles (e-textiles) consist of
clothing or technical textiles with electronic
components integrated into them. Clothes pro-
vide a wearable platform for electronic gadgets,
making the latter easily portable and more conve-
nient to use in daily life. Interactive clothes with
integrated lighting elements, dial pads, mp3 play-
ers, and solar cells have already been commer-
cialized (Mecheels et al. 2004). The first genera-
tion of e-textiles has the potential to enter mass
markets in the near future (Stork 2008). More
advanced e-textiles, with unobtrusively embed-
ded computing devices, are still at an immature
development stage. They represent an example
of “pervasive computing”—a technology vision
of the integration of information and communi-
cation technology (ICT) into everyday objects
(Hilty et al. 2004). Technology developers uti-
lize textiles as a basis for pervasive computing
products because many objects of the daily liv-
ing environment are made of textile materials.
E-textiles have a wide range of potential applica-
tion areas, such as health care, sports and outdoor
fashion, work wear, interior textiles, and safety
and security products.
E-textile developers currently pursue design
concepts that seek a deep and seamless inte-
gration of electronics and textiles. Both types
of products represent relatively short-lived mass
consumer goods. Combining them can intensify
the reasons for product obsolescence and may
lead to products that have even shorter service
lives. That makes e-textiles a subject worthy of
scrutiny from the perspective of industrial ecol-
ogy. If the convergence of textile and electronic
products leads to short-lived mass products, then
it is likely that they will become a source of large
waste streams in the future. Moreover, e-textiles
will form a new type of waste, namely e-waste
contaminated old textiles. Such materials can en-
tail recycling and disposal problems.
Thus far, only a few studies have examined
the possible end-of-life impacts of smart every-
day objects that contain electronics components.
Hilty and colleagues (2004) assessed the technol-
ogy vision of pervasive computing and warned
of quick premature obsolescence (“virtual wear-
out”) affecting such products due to short inno-
vation cycles and software incompatibility. The
expected consequences are increased resource
consumption in production and increased waste
generation. Scrapped wearable computers will
be difficult to collect and recycle because these
tiny devices will be scattered in general house-
hold waste streams (K¨
ohler and Erdmann 2004;
auchi et al. 2005). Because of the comput-
ers’ unobtrusiveness, their last owners will find
it hard to separate them from residual waste.
Thus, numerous small e-waste items can end up
in normal household waste or find their way into
recycling processes, where they act as contam-
inants. This creates a twofold risk: First, recy-
cling processes of other materials may be dis-
turbed by cross-contamination. Second, release
of toxic substances is possible during unsophis-
ticated disposal processes. W¨
ager and colleagues
(2005) found that RFID tags1can cause prob-
lems in established recycling processes of non-
electronic goods.
Experiences with the disposal of contemporary
electronic waste (e-waste) give reason to expect
severe environmental and social impacts world-
wide (Hilty 2005; Kr¨
auchi et al. 2005; Puckett
et al. 2005; Widmer et al. 2005; Schluep et al.
2009). The e-waste problem consists of three key
factors: (1) Large amounts of obsolete electronic
products are arising2worldwide. (2) Electron-
ics usually contain problematic substances that
can cause harm to the environment and human
health if they are released during disposal. (3)
E-waste contains valuable materials that are dif-
ficult to recover. E-textiles are expected to fulfill
all three factors of the e-waste problem (K¨
Future waste problems can be mitigated by
environmentally conscious design of e-textiles.
Waste prevention by design can be successful at
an early stage of technology development. This
holds true as long as e-textiles have not pervaded
the mass markets. That requires e-textile devel-
opers to make design decisions under conditions
of uncertainty. In this situation, “it is important
to understand where we have choices and where
we do not” (Allenby 2009, 181). Allenby also
notes that “identifying reasonable scenarios for
emerging technologies and exploring their impli-
cations remains an important priority” (180) for
industrial ecology. To this end, the objective of
ohler, Hilty, and Bakker, Prospective Impacts of Electronic Textiles 497
this article is to examine the prospective end-of-
life implications of e-textiles before they become
reality. The ex-ante assessment of future waste
problems serves as a basis for outlining possible
sustainable design choices that can be made at the
early stage of the e-textiles’ innovation process.
The article is organized as follows: First, we
outline the most relevant design concepts that
influence the direction of innovations in the area
of e-textiles. Next, we provide an overview of
their materials composition. Finally, we describe
and analyze application scenarios of three types of
e-textiles as a basis for estimation of future waste
streams and evaluate prospective consequences
for recycling and disposal of these products.
Description of E-textiles
Current trends in innovation and market de-
velopment were examined through review of
the technical literature and an expert survey.
The survey was conducted among 39 Euro-
pean researchers and enterprises by means of
questionnaire-guided interviews. The survey ad-
dressed three thematic areas: (1) design concepts,
(2) estimation of future market perspectives, and
(3) material composition. The expert survey did
not aim at empirical robustness; instead, it pro-
vided a synopsis of current priorities in the re-
search and development process. The interviews
were conducted between 2008 and 2010. A copy
of the expert survey is provided in the supporting
information S2 on the Journal’s Web site.
Current Innovation Trends
Smart textiles represent an emerging tech-
nology that is being developed by innovators
in both the electronics and the textile sectors.
Technophile trendsetters, such as fashion artists
and industrial designers, have inspired the inno-
vation process by creating prototypes of high-tech
textile products with advanced functionality. In
the textile sector, the term “smart” has been used
to describe functional textiles with engineered
properties. They can contain a wide range of en-
gineered materials and components (Mecheels
et al. 2004; Tang and Stylios 2006; Cho et al.
2010). Phase change materials (PCM), for in-
stance, create a cooling effect or store excess heat.
Micro- or nano-encapsulated substances (e.g., in-
secticides, perfumes, drugs) can be attached to
fabrics and released during the use phase in a
controlled dosage.
The notion of product-smartness has recently
shifted toward more active and “intelligent” func-
tions (Centexbel 2011). Now, smartness is often
interpreted as the products’ ability to sense and
respond to external stimuli. Shape memory ma-
terials that can adjust the texture of fabrics de-
pending on temperature change are an example.
Sophisticated smart textiles show interactive be-
havior, such as sensing, signal transmission, and
data processing. These functions are established
by means of textile-integrated electronic compo-
nents. The term “e-textile” is specifically used for
that technology.
Developers of e-textiles pursue different de-
sign strategies depending on their respective dis-
cipline (textiles or electronics). The two disci-
plines are only beginning to cooperate in the
development of dedicated e-textile materials.
Apparel designers usually start with traditional
clothing and seek to make it smart by integrating
commodity electronic components (Tang and
Stylios 2006). Design concepts take advantage
of classical textile qualities, such as comfort and
fashion. Although the properties of textiles can
be easily customized, they should not be com-
promised by integrated electronic components.
For example, e-textiles should withstand launder-
ing. Thus, a redesign of electronic components
is needed to match their properties with those
of textiles. Electronics must become resistant to
water, detergents, and mechanical stress (Mar-
culescu et al. 2003; Mecheels et al. 2004; Stylios
2007). Electronic engineers seek to develop elec-
tronic components that are soft, flexible, stretch-
able, and water resistant and that fit seamlessly
into surrounding textiles. Microsystems technol-
ogy, organic semiconductor materials, and nan-
otechnology are enabling technologies that fa-
cilitate the general innovation trend of seamless
integration of electronics and textiles (Kind and
Bovenschulte 2006).
Sophisticated e-textiles that host ICT de-
vices and their peripheral equipment are cur-
rently in a laboratory stage of development.
Some researchers pursue design concepts that
aim at deep integration of wearable computing
498 Journal of Industrial Ecology
devices into clothing (Buechley 2006). Such in-
tegration will render separate ICT devices un-
needed. Textile-embedded human-computer in-
terfaces (e.g., switches, dials, keyboards, flexible
displays) provide superior usability and comfort
(Marculescu et al. 2003; Park and Jayaraman
2003). Other researchers comprehend wearable
computers as detachable objects, such as head-
sets, glasses, buttons, and rings, that form a body-
centered network that is mounted on clothing
(Starner 2001).
Three successive steps of innovation can be
delineated with regard to design concepts of inte-
grating electronic components into textiles (fig-
ure 1; Mecheels et al. 2004; Cho et al. 2010):
1. Adoption: Distinct electronic devices are
embedded into a textile platform (e.g., in-
corporated into pockets). Such products
have been introduced into the market
in the form of mobile phone periphery
2. Seamless integration: Electronic devices
are to be incorporated throughout textile
materials (e.g., embroidered sensors, lam-
inated circuit boards). This is the current
stage of the innovation process.
3. Combination: Textile materials and struc-
tures with inherent electronic function-
ality (e.g., yarn transistor, fiber-based cir-
cuits, photovoltaic fibers).
Market Perspectives
For the time being, e-textiles exist in special-
ized niche markets (e.g., health care and work
wear applications). This first generation of e-
textiles is leading the innovation process. The
proliferation of sophisticated e-textiles at con-
sumer mass markets is expected to take more time.
Observers of the innovation process expect that
e-textiles will penetrate mass markets within the
decade (McWilliams 2007; Stork 2008). In par-
ticular, the market segments of sports clothes,
telemedicine, and lifestyle textiles hold poten-
tials for mass application (Stork 2008). Results
from our expert survey among e-textile devel-
opers indicate current hot spots of innovation
(figure 2, left). The estimation of the possible
market size varied depending on the respective
application area (figure 2, right). For the near fu-
ture, the interviewees expected the highest mar-
ket potential in the area of ambulatory health
Materials and Components Used in
The first generation of e-textiles contain a
similar range of materials as today’s commod-
ity electronic products. The latter usually con-
tain considerable amounts of valuable materi-
als, which reside mainly in the gadgets’ printed
wiring boards (PWBs; Huisman 2004; Chancerel
et al. 2009; Schluep et al 2009). In addition,
electronic products are known to contain haz-
ardous substances or their precursor substances
(Chancerel and Rotter 2009). Mobile phones, for
instance, contain valuable metals, such as copper,
silver, and gold, as well as problematic substances
in batteries and plastic additives (e.g., flame
The electronic components in first-generation
e-textiles are made of off-the-shelf technology—
for example, arrays of small light-emitting diodes.
These parts are spread out across the textile sur-
face areas. Electronic circuits can be either sewn
on fabrics directly or mounted on flexible PWBs,
which must be compatible with classic textile
properties (i.e., stretchable, elastic, and water-
proof). Flexible PWBs often consist of polyamide
foil coated with nickel/copper layers that are
plated with thin gold layers to allow for good
electrical contacts. Flexible PWB can be sewn,
laminated, or glued onto fabrics. Casing and
packaging of electronic components are made
of fabric or plastic foil rather than of steel, alu-
minum, or bulky plastic parts. Thus, e-textiles
contain smaller amounts of such construction
metals, whereas certain specialty metals may gain
in relative importance. Silver, for instance, is a
candidate for more widespread usage.
If the design concepts of integration and com-
bination (see figure 1) become reality, one can
expect more significant changes in the materi-
als composition. Then, textile electronics will
consist of embroidered circuitry and organic
electronic components, which can be printed
directly onto the fabric surface. Electronic
components will tend to become smaller and
ohler, Hilty, and Bakker, Prospective Impacts of Electronic Textiles 499
Figure 1 Design concepts of converging electronic and textile components (symbolic sketch).
more scattered across the textile. Moreover, elec-
tronic and textile materials will become more and
more amalgamated. Polymer-metal composites
and nano-materials may replace traditional elec-
tronic materials. Table 1 provides an overview of
electrically active components of e-textiles that
are currently in the focus of research and de-
velopment. The following subsections provide a
glimpse into the materials inventory of some en-
abling technologies of e-textiles (K¨
ohler 2008).
Electrically Conductive Fibers and Intercon-
To establish electrical interconnections, de-
velopers of e-textiles normally use metalized fibers
or yarns that contain silver, copper, or nickel
(table 2; Meoli 2002; ; Berzowska and Bromley
2007; Mythili et al. 2007). The metal content
of commercially available conductive yarns can
be up to 40%wt. Solid metal strands and wires of
stainless steel are used as well, but they are less
flexible and less comfortable to wear. Alterna-
tively, conductive fibers can be made of intrin-
sically conductive polymers, such as polyaniline
(Kim et al. 2003; Kim and Lewis 2003). Some
developers experiment with conductive compos-
ite fibers that contain metallic particles or carbon
particles (L¨
ubben 2005). Also, nano-composites
with 0.5% to 20%wt carbon nanotubes (CNTs)
in the polymer matrix show sufficient electrical
conductivity for certain applications of e-textiles
ohler et al. 2008). Cotton yarn can be made
Figure 2 Expert expectations on application areas (left) and market size (right) of e-textiles. The time
horizon is 1 decade. Niche market =high-value-added specialty products (e.g., firefighter suits); sectoral
market =customized applications (e.g., telehealth monitoring); mass mar ket =ubiquitous consumer
applications (e.g., casual apparel).
Source: Authors’ own data.
500 Journal of Industrial Ecology
Ta b l e 1 Examples of electronic components and materials that are integrated into textiles
Examples of electronic components in textiles Application
Electrically conductive fibers and sheets Electrostatic dissipation and electromagnetic
Electric interconnection and power distribution
Sensor and actuator elements
Heating resistors
Transmission of analogue and digital signals
Radio-frequency antennas
Optical fibers Light dispersion, signal transmission
Soldering joints, bonding pads, mechanical
Electric contacting and mechanical fixation
Flexible wiring boards and embroidered wiring Mechanical fixation and electric interconnection
of electronic components, protection against
wear and tear
LEDs, OLEDs, laser diodes, and flexible displays Lighting, photonic effects, user interaction
Digital devices, such as mp3 player,
microcontroller, and networking units
Information and communication functions,
interactivity and smartness
Embedded periphery: dial pad, speaker,
microphone, radio-frequency antenna, RFID
User interaction, data input and output, wireless
network connection
Solar cells, piezoelectric units, thermoelectric
Power generation (harvesting from ambient
energy sources, e.g., light, heat, mechanical
Rechargeable batteries Power storage
Note: LED =light-emitting diode; OLED =organic light-emitting diode; RFID =radio-frequency identification.
electrically conductive when it is coated with
polymer stabilized CNT (Avila and Hinestroza
2008; Shim et al. 2008).
Contacting and Bonding Elements
New technological solutions are being de-
veloped for mechanical fixation of electronic
components and their interconnection within
textile materials. Electrical contacts must with-
stand harsh external impacts during use phase
(washing, drying, mechanical abrasion, humidity,
chemicals and UV radiation, etc.). Those factors
limit the useful lifetime of e-textiles (measured
in washing cycles). The following list summa-
rizes the state of the art for electrical contacting
Soldering: based on lead-free solders (alloys
of tin, silver, copper, antimony, bismuth).
Mechanical connections: embroidery of
conductive yarn. Metallic snap fasteners or
metalized hook-and-loop fasteners are used
for detachable connections.
Conductive adhesives that contain metal-
lic particles (typically silver) or carbon
black dispersed in monomers or poly-
mers (e.g., [poly]urethane) or bicomponent
epoxy resins (Healy et al. 2003; Kolbe et al.
Power Supply
E-textiles are mostly powered by lithium-
ion batteries. They can be recharged either
by means of grid-connected chargers (requires
user interaction) or by solar cells, thermo gen-
erators, or piezo elements that harvest ambi-
ent energy (Kim and Lewis 2003). Batteries
are embedded into textiles in such a way that
they can be detached before laundry. Some
developers have created waterproof batteries,
which can be seamlessly embedded into textiles
ohler, Hilty, and Bakker, Prospective Impacts of Electronic Textiles 501
Ta b l e 2 Overview of materials used to enhance conductivity of textiles
Material Integration in textiles
Percentage of conductive
Cu/Ag /Au Cu wire plated with
Ag or Au single
wire or strand
yarn or fabric
Up to 100%wt Spinning,
stitching, sewing
Stainless steel Single wires or
threads spun into
Up to 100%wt Spinning,
stitching, sewing
Ag/Cu /Au/Ni Coating of fiber or
fabric surfaces
1% to 40% of fiber weight Chemical
Ag Coating fabric
Metal content in the ink
up to 70%wt
Screen printing,
ink-jet printing
Fiber of fabric
<0.5%wt Sputter deposition,
plasma coating
Conductive polymers
Conjugate polymer
fibers or
(core/shell) fibers
Up to 100%wt PAni in the
shell of coated polyester
Solvent casting,
melt spinning,
Carbon nanotubes,
single walled or
multiwalled (in
the future)
Pure CNT yarn,
coating of fiber,
yarn coating of
fabric surfaces
Approximately 100%wt,
0.1% to 0.5%wt CNT in
polymer composites
Spinning, in situ
and annealing of
CNT; wet dying;
ink-jet printing
Carbon black Filler of polymer
fibers, surface
coating of cotton
50%wt Melt spinning,
wet spinning,
wet coating
Coating of fiber or
fabric surfaces
n.a. Plasma coating,
sol-gel process
Optical glass or
Optical fibers
n.a Sewing, stitching
Note:Al=aluminum; Ag =silver; Au =gold; CNT =carbon nanotubes; Cu =copper; PAni =Polyaniline; Ti =
titanium; n.a. =not available.
aMaterial content refers to the intermediate material (e.g., yarn, fabric). No data were available for final products.
ohler 2008.
Estimation of Future E-textile
Was te Stre ams
E-textiles will inevitably turn to waste at the
end of their useful lives. Contemporary elec-
tronic products usually have rather short ser-
vice lives. There is no reason to assume that
e-textiles will break with that trend. On the
contrary, their obsolescence may even be ac-
celerated due to fleeting fashion trends in the
502 Journal of Industrial Ecology
apparel sector. One can expect that old e-textiles
will cause large waste streams similar to today’s
To estimate the order of magnitude of future
waste streams, we extrapolated the possible mar-
ket diffusion trend of e-textiles in scenarios.3We
conceived a base scenario of market diffusion by
projecting historic data on market diffusion of
small high-tech gadgets, such as mobile phones,
into the future. The scenario represents a case
study of the national German market. We as-
sumed that the market diffusion of e-textiles will
follow a sigmoid growth curve similar to the mo-
bile telecommunication market in the past. That
market segment grew from 10% to 90% of the
maximal market size (K) within a period of 9
years (for details, see Appendix S1 in the sup-
porting information on the Web). With the base
scenario in the background, three different appli-
cation areas of e-textiles were considered. Table 3
gives an overview of the key parameters presumed
for the application scenarios.
Scenario A: niche market: fire-fighter suits
with integrated sensors, data processing
unit, navigation system, radio transceiver,
and batteries.
Scenario B: sectoral market: electrocardio-
graph (ECG) shirt with integrated sen-
sor pads and radiofrequency antenna, used
for constant heart monitoring (telehealth
Scenario C: mass market: outdoor jacket
with integrated mp3-player, mobile phone,
dial-pad, flexible solar cells, and batteries.
The amount of waste per year from each type
of e-textile was extrapolated on the basis of the
three application scenarios. Figure 3 shows the
extrapolated waste stream of complete e-textiles
(electronic components together with textile ma-
terials). Significant amounts of waste emerge ap-
proximately 5 to 7 years after the first introduc-
tion of e-textiles at the mass market. Figure 4
shows the extrapolated mass stream of electronic
components only, as if they were separated from
the textiles. In each scenario, an annual 2% de-
crease in weight of the electronic components
was presumed as an approximation for miniatur-
ization trends.
The case study shows that the extrapolated
waste stream of old e-textiles in Germany can
grow as much as 24 kilotonnes (ktonnes)4per
year in Scenario B (ECG shirt) and 55 ktonnes
in Scenario C (outdoor jacket). Textile materials
contribute the biggest portion by weight within
that waste stream. The e-textile waste stream in
the mass-market Scenario C would constitute ap-
proximately 5% of weight among the 1.13 million
tonnes of discarded clothes and home textiles in
Germany (BVSE 2009). Although old e-textiles
may not result in a massive increase of the do-
mestic textile waste stream, they can change the
material composition of the recyclable fraction of
old textiles.
Electronic components may have a concen-
tration between 7%wt in Scenario B and 15%wt
in Scenario A (firefighter suit); the rest consists
of textiles or plastic and metal parts (e.g., but-
tons). The e-waste fraction in the textile waste
stream is estimated at 1,300 tonnes per year in
Scenario B and 4,000 tonnes in Scenario C. The
flow of textile-embedded e-waste does not appear
significant when compared with the total textile
waste flow. Nonetheless, it has the same order
of magnitude as obsolete mobile phones have to-
in the supporting information on the Web for
The prospective arising of old e-textiles on a
global scale was estimated at 1 million tonnes per
year as an order of magnitude. That waste stream
would contain 50 to 150 ktonnes of embedded
electronic components, depending on the type of
E-textiles can form a considerable waste
stream provided that they evolve as mass applica-
tions. Scenario B illustrates that this is also pos-
sible in sectoral application areas, such as health
care. We consider our market diffusion scenario
a rather conservative estimate. There are sev-
eral reasons to assume that the future market dif-
fusion of e-textiles can be at least as rapid and
widespread as the diffusion of mobile phones in
the past.
First, the time span in which the market dif-
fusion of e-textiles grows from 10% to 90% of the
total market size can be briefer than it was with
mobile phones. The diffusion of mobile commu-
nication technology was largely determined by
ohler, Hilty, and Bakker, Prospective Impacts of Electronic Textiles 503
Ta b l e 3 Specifications of the application scenarios
Scenario Scenario A: Scenario B: Scenario C:
name Firefighter suit ECG shirt Outdoor jacket
Market type Niche market Sectoral market Mass market
Application area Protective wear Health monitoring Everyday life
Maximal no. users K=300,000aK=27 millionbK=82 millionc
No. units per userd1 7 (one per day of week) 2 (one summer
winter coat)
Average product lifetimed5 years 1 year (50 laundries) 3 years (three
fashion seasons)
Weight per unitd2,000 g 130 g 800 g/1,200 g
Weight of the electronic
components at
250 g 10 g 50 g
Note: Demographic data are from Destatis (2010). ECG =eletrocardiograph; g =gram.
aNumber of fire-warden offices times 10. bAll citizens of age 55 and older. cWhole German population. dParameters are
based on our own assumptions.
cocreation of the backbone infrastructure (e.g.,
mobile telecommunication networks). E-textiles,
in contrast, can take advantage of already ex-
isting wireless network infrastructure, and some
types of e-textiles can be used as stand-alone
Second, e-textiles are likely to coexist in mul-
tiple application areas. The technology vision of
pervasive computing suggests that users possess
numerous gadgets simultaneously. Different types
of e-textiles can be used at the same time, given
their broad variety of functions. Stand-alone de-
vices (e.g., mp3 players) may be used in addi-
tion to networked gadgets (e.g., smart phones).
Conversely, consumers may possess multiple
pieces of clothing and use them infrequently (e.g.,
Figure 3 Extrapolated waste arising of obsolete e-textiles (whole product) for the three scenarios
(Scenario A =firefighter suit; Scenario B =electrocardiograph shirt; Scenario C =outdoor jacket).
504 Journal of Industrial Ecology
Figure 4 Extrapolated waste arising of textile-embedded electronic components for the three scenarios
(Scenario A =firefighter suit; Scenario B =electrocardiograph shir t; Scenario C =outdoor jacket).
seasonal). That means users may own numerous
e-textiles but not use these items all the time.
Third, we presumed a general miniaturiza-
tion trend of single ICT devices. That trend
has been observed throughout the history of
the ICT sector—for instance, in the case of
mobile phones. Miniaturization has almost al-
ways been outweighed by growing numbers of
devices used, however. The effect has become
known as the “miniaturization paradox” (Hilty
2008). There is no reason to expect that e-
textiles will break with that trend. The re-
sults of our scenarios suggest that the waste
flows of e-textiles will increase in spite of their
Recyclability of E-textiles
This section presents a brief discussion of the
capability of recycling and disposal schemes to
cope with old e-textiles.5The fate of old e-textiles
will depend on the waste management schemes
that are established at the place of their disposal.
They differ largely among countries (Schluep
et al. 2009). Figure 5 summarizes principal re-
cycling or disposal processes of e-textiles.
Currently established recycling schemes are
inappropriate to collect and process textiles
with integrated electronic components. From the
present-day perspective, it can be assumed that
the biggest fraction of discarded e-textiles would
be disposed of together with municipal solid waste
(MSW). In principle, MSW disposal is done ei-
ther by incineration or by direct landfilling, de-
pending on the country. If e-textiles are coincin-
erated with MSW, recovery of valuable materials
is hardly possible with today’s technology. Metal
recovery from incinerator bottom ash is only pos-
sible for larger metal parts—roughly in the cen-
timeter range (Morf et al. 2009). Metallic com-
ponents found in e-textiles (e.g., silver-coated
fibers) have a much smaller size. Therefore, co-
incinerating e-textiles would disperse the valu-
able metals, such as silver, in the bottom ashes
or in the filter dust. The latter is disposed of as
hazardous waste. Hence, textiles will contribute
to the contemporary environmental problems of
disposing e-waste together with solid waste (Jang
and Townsend 2003; Gullett and Linak 2007).
E-textiles Entering an E-waste Recycling
Discarded e-textiles may find their way into
recycling schemes for e-waste (Waste Electrical
and Electronic Equipment [WEEE]). With the
WEEE Directive in effect since 2005, European
ohler, Hilty, and Bakker, Prospective Impacts of Electronic Textiles 505
Figure 5 Possible recycling and disposal channels for e-textiles. MSW =municipal solid waste.
Source: K¨
ohler 2008.
countries are supposed to implement schemes for
separate take-back and recycling of WEEE (EC
2003). E-textiles, however, because they are not
explicitly addressed by that regulation, would be
rejected at the collection points or sorted out by
recycling companies. That holds true unless the
legislature includes e-textiles in the regulation
or material recovery from e-textiles emerges as a
profitable business (the latter appears possible in
developing countries, similar to today’s informal
e-waste recycling; Puckett et al. 2005). Sorted-
out items are usually disposed of as solid waste.
From the technical perspective, the established
WEEE take-back and recycling systems are not
designed to deal with this novel type of waste.
In general, they exhibit very poor performance
for e-waste items below 1 kilogram (Huisman
et al. 2007). The recycling experts interviewed
deemed it difficult to recycle e-textiles. They ex-
pected various technical problems. Textiles could
jam shredders and crushers such as currently used
in WEEE recycling. Automated separators were
seen as inadequate to separate fluffy, lightweight
materials, such as metalized plastic foils and tex-
tile fibers. From current WEEE recycling tech-
nology, we know that mechanical shredding re-
sults in great losses of precious metals. A large
part of these materials are transferred into output
fractions, from which they cannot be recovered
(Chancerel et al. 2009). Likewise, shredding e-
textiles would transfer the precious metals (e.g.,
silver) into the dust fraction.
The experts deemed manual sorting and pro-
cessing of e-textile waste possible, although dif-
ficult. The processing costs were estimated to be
prohibitively high because the valuable metals
are not concentrated in PWBs as in traditional
WEEE. The interviewees pointed to the serious
challenge of taking into account the heterogene-
ity of textile products as well as the specific design
features of e-textiles (unobtrusiveness). Person-
nel at collection points and recycling workshops
would need to be trained to recognize minia-
turized electronic devices that are seamlessly
506 Journal of Industrial Ecology
integrated in textiles. Moreover, investments
would be necessary in regard to storage, trans-
portation, and appropriate tools to process old
E-textiles Entering a Recycling Channel
for Old Textiles
The last owners of old e-textiles are assumed
to dispose of the old e-textiles together with
ordinary old clothes rather than as e-waste be-
cause the electronic parts are unobtrusive. Col-
lection of postconsumer textiles is often per-
formed by charities or recycling firms. Collec-
tion rates of old textiles are usually low (e.g.,
17% in the United Kingdom [UK]; Morley et al.
2006). The larger share of the collected old tex-
tiles is exported to developing countries, where
they are reused and eventually disposed of (Waste
Watch 2006). Shipments of old textiles to foreign
markets are 54% in the UK and 41% in Ger-
many (BVSE 2009). One third of old textiles in
Germany (233,000 tonnes per year) consists of
inputs to fiber reclamation processes to produce
felt or fabric for industrial purpose.
The extrapolated arising of old e-textiles
would constitute a minor fraction of the whole
old textile stream—approximately 5%, as for Sce-
nario C. In Germany, discarded clothes and home
textiles form an annual waste stream of 1.13 mil-
lion tonnes (BVSE 2009). Old e-textiles are likely
to appear at the second-hand clothing market,
for they may still provide textile functions after
the smart function has ceased to be useful. In
this case, the larger part of old e-textiles would
be exported overseas as part of normal second-
hand clothes. Before shipment, the textiles are
baled by mechanical force. Batteries contained
in old e-textiles could cause a fire hazard if not
removed before baling. The end-of-life fate of e-
textiles reused in developing countries is hardly
predictable. One can assume, however, that the
content of precious metals (e.g., silver) may trig-
ger a backyard recycling under similar poor en-
vironmental and occupational health conditions
as known from e-waste recycling.
E-textiles could also enter sophisticated fiber
reclamation processes based on mechanical
shredding. Waste electronic materials can be
regarded as contaminants in the textile waste
stream, as they are widely dispersed within dis-
carded clothes. There is a risk that e-textiles could
disturb these processes or contaminate the sec-
ondary fibers produced. Cross-contamination of
other recycled materials (e.g., synthetic fibers)
lowers the market value of the latter. More-
over, coprocessing of old e-textiles in fiber re-
cycling could pose unexpected emissions of dust
containing heavy metals. It could cause occupa-
tional health and environmental problems, like
the dust released from e-waste shredding (Hanke
et al. 2000). Removal of components containing
hazardous substances would be necessary prior to
fiber reclamation. The interviewees from textile
recycling businesses deemed that additional step
difficult and costly.
Conclusions and
We have portrayed e-textiles as an example of
pervasive computing technologies. These prod-
ucts can cause end-of-life problems in the future
due to the following reasons:
E-textiles will likely be used as mass appli-
ances and can result in large waste streams.
It will be difficult to collect and recycle old
e-textiles by means of contemporary collec-
tion and recycling schemes.
Valuable materials contained in e-textiles
are dispersed within textile bulk materials,
which makes e-textiles a low-grade feed-
stock for metal recycling. Fiber recycling,
in turn, is seriously compromised by e-waste
contaminating the textile materials.
The possible content of problematic sub-
stances (or their precursors) in e-textiles
poses environmental and health risks in re-
cycling and disposal processes.
At present, not even contemporary e-waste,
which has a relatively high content of valuable
metals, is recycled at sufficient rates. There is no
reason to expect sufficient recycling rates with
low-grade waste, such as old e-textiles. Hence, the
industrial ecology community is confronted with
the prospect of a new generation of high-tech
products undermining one of the core ideas of
ohler, Hilty, and Bakker, Prospective Impacts of Electronic Textiles 507
industrial ecology: closing material loops (Ehren-
feld 2008).
From this background, we regard it crucial
to implement waste-preventative measures (i.e.,
design for recyclability) integrated in the inno-
vation process of e-textiles. Later on, opportuni-
ties for fundamental solutions wane, and tech-
nical “quick fix” solutions are applied at best,
which cure only the symptoms of the problems.
This is because corrective action, such as re-
design, becomes too difficult and expensive once
a technology reaches a large market penetration
(Collingridge 1980).
Accordingly, researchers face a challenge to
launch waste-preventative measures before ad-
verse end-of-life impacts become obvious at a
large scale. E-textile developers should therefore
scrutinize the design concept of seamless integra-
tion. The technology should not be used to pro-
duce short-lived consumer products. Moreover,
technology developers and product designers of
e-textiles should not simply delegate responsibil-
ity for the end-of-life phase of their inventions to
the recycling sector.
Ehrenfeld (2008) suggests turning the prob-
lems into opportunities by designing technical
artifacts in such ways that they yield supreme sus-
tainability benefits over their whole product life
cycle. ICT can, like no other technology, be part
of the solutions that we need to reduce the mate-
rial intensity of the economy (Hilty 2008; Hilty
and Ruddy 2010). We believe that e-textiles bear
a great potential in this regard. Because they of-
fer radical new ways of human-technology inter-
action, they can be designed to persuade their
users to commit to a more sustainable behav-
ior. These possibilities are unlikely to unfold in a
business-as-usual mode of innovation, however.
Sustainability benefits must be searched for and
proactively put into practice.
Industrial designers can play a vital role here,
because they can create showcases of sustainable
e-textiles. That way, they can inspire consumers
and decision makers in industry to turn their
attention toward sustainable alternatives. It re-
mains to be demonstrated that e-textiles can in-
deed fulfill sustainable functions while keeping
the end-of-life and other sustainability risks in
check. We recommend that industrial design-
ers adopt the principles of green engineering
as a modus operandi of taking responsibility for
the life-cycle-wide environmental impacts of e-
textiles (Anastas and Zimmerman 2003).
To prompt sustainable innovation of emerg-
ing technologies, the legislature should send
clear signals to research institutions and indus-
try. The revised European Ecodesign directive
(EC 2009) could serve as a model; it mandates
eco-design requirements for the development of
energy-related products. Likewise, waste preven-
tion should be made an explicit goal of inno-
vation strategies. The U.S. Environmental Pro-
tection Agency (EPA) has outlined possible ways
to move forward with sustainable management of
materials by incorporating life cycle thinking into
the design process of future products (EPA 2009).
In addition, recyclability targets should be man-
dated in the framework of innovation funding
schemes that support the developers of e-textiles.
1. RFID tags refer to radio-frequency identification
(RFID) transponders in the form of labels.
2. In some countries, the term “waste generation” is
used in lieu of “arising.”
3. The prospective waste stream of e-textiles was esti-
mated by means of trend extrapolation and analogy.
For this purpose, a base scenario of market diffusion
was set up in the form of a sigmoid market growth
model (Boretos 2007). That base scenario was cal-
ibrated with data derived from a case study on the
market diffusion of mobile phones in Germany. On
top of the base scenario, three application scenarios
of e-textiles were developed that characterized their
technical properties and useful lives. Lessons learned
from the contemporary e-waste problem served as a
general yardstick for analysis. This information was
obtained from literature. Further details of the sce-
nario development are explained in the supporting
information on the Web.
4. One kilotonne (kt) =103tonnes (t) =103mega-
grams (Mg, SI) 1.102 ×103short tons.
5. We undertook a broad review of scientific litera-
ture and contributions at conferences and indus-
try fairs regarding expected end-of-life implications
of e-textiles. No such information could be found
by literature review, however. Therefore, a second
batch of interviews was conducted with six experts
from recycling firms of both sectors, e-waste recy-
cling and textile recycling. The interviewees were
presented the properties and materials of e-textiles
508 Journal of Industrial Ecology
and then asked open-ended questions. These inter-
views were meant to explore the experts’ opinions
about the recyclability of e-textiles.
Allenby, B. 2009. The industrial ecology of emerging
technologies: Complexity and the reconstruction
of the world. Journal of Industrial Ecology 13(2):
Anastas, P. T. and J. B. Zimmerman. 2003. Design
through the twelve principles of green engineer-
ing. Environmental Science & Technology 37(5):
Avila, A. G. and J. P. Hinestroza. 2008. Smart textiles:
Tough cotton. Nature Nanotechnology 3(8): 458–
Berzowska, J. and M. Bromley. 2007. Soft computation
through conductive textiles. Montreal, Canada: XS
Boretos, G. P. 2007. The future of the mobile phone
business. Technological Forecasting & Social Change
74: 331–340.
Buechley, L. 2006. A construction kit for electronic
textiles. In Proceedings of IEEE International Sym-
posium of Wearable Computers (ISWC). Montreux:
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
BVSE (Bundesverband Sekund¨
arrohstoffe und
Entsorgung). 2009. Textilrecycling. [Textile re-
cycling.] Accessed February
Centexbel. 2011. Definition of “smart” textiles. http:// Accessed April
Chancerel, P. and S. Rotter. 2009. Recycling-oriented
characterization of small waste electrical and elec-
tronic equipment. Waste Management 29: 2336–
Chancerel, P., C. E. M. Meskers, C. Hagel¨
uken, and
V. S. Rotter. 2009. Assessment of precious metal
flows during preprocessing of waste electrical and
electronic equipment. Journal of Industrial Ecology
13(5): 791–810.
Cho, G., S. Lee, and J. Cho. 2010. Review and reap-
praisal of smart clothing. In Smart clothing tech-
nology and applications,editedbyG.Cho.Boca
Raton, FL, USA: CRC Press.
Collingridge, D. 1980. The social control of technology.
London: Frances Pinter.
Destatis. 2010. Accessed Febru-
ary 2011.
Dunne, L. E., S. P. Ashdown, and B. Smyth. 2005. Ex-
panding garment functionality through embed-
ded electronic technology. Journal of Textile and
Apparel Technology and Management 4(3): 1–11.
EC (European Commission). 2003. Directive
2002/96/EC on waste electrical and electronic
equipment (WEEE). Official Journal of the
European Union 37: 24–38.
EC (European Commission). 2009. Directive
2009/125/EC establishing a framework for the
setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-
related products (recast). Official Journal of the
European Union. L258: 10–35.
Ehrenfeld, J. R. 2008. Sustainability by design.New
Haven, CT, USA: Yale University Press.
EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2009.
Sustainable materials management: The road ahead.
EPA530R09009. Washington, DC: EPA.
Gullett, B. K. and W. P. Linak. 2007. Characterization
of air emissions and residual ash from open burn-
ing of electronic wastes during simulated rudi-
mentary recycling operations. Journal of Material
Cycles and Waste Management 9: 69–79.
Hanke, M., C. Ihrig, and D. F. Ihrig. 2000. Occu-
pational exposure during e-waste recycling. In
Gefaehrliche Arbeitsstoffe, Ga 56. [Hazardous work-
ing materials, Vol. 56.], Bremerhaven, Germany:
Verlag f¨
ur neue Wissenschaft GmbH.
Healy, T., J. Donnelly, B. O’Neill, J. Alderman, A.
Mathewson, F. Clemens, J. Heiber, T. Graule,
A. Ullsperger, W. Hartmann, C. Papadas, and N.
Venios. 2003. Technology development for build-
ing flexible silicon functional fibres. In 7th IEEE
International Symposium on Wearable Computers.
Washington, DC: IEEE Computer Society.
Hilty, L. M. 2005. Electronic waste: An emerging risk?
Environmental Impact Assessment Review 25(5):
Hilty, L. M. 2008. Information technology and sustain-
ability: Essays on the relationship between ICT and
sustainability. Norderstedt, Germany: Books on
Hilty, L. M. and T. F. Ruddy. 2010. Sustainable de-
velopment and ICT interpreted in a natural sci-
ence context: The resulting research questions for
the social sciences. Information, Communication &
Society 13(1): 7–22.
Hilty, L. M., C. Som, and A. R. K¨
ohler. 2004. Assess-
ing the human, social and environmental risks of
pervasive computing. Human and Ecological Risk
Assessment 10(5): 853–874.
Huisman, J. 2004. QWERTY and eco-efficiency analysis
on cellular phone treatment in Sweden. Delft, the
Netherlands: TU Delft.
Huisman, J., F. Magalini, R. Kuehr, C. Maurer, S.
Ogilvie, J. Poll, C. Delgado, E. Artim, J. Szlezak,
ohler, Hilty, and Bakker, Prospective Impacts of Electronic Textiles 509
and A. Stevels 2007. 2008 review of Directive
2002/96 on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equip-
ment (WEEE). Bonn, Germany: United Nations
Jang, Y. C. and T. G. Townsend. 2003. Leaching
of lead from computer printed wire boards and
cathode ray tubes by municipal solid waste land-
fill leachates. Environmental Science & Technology
37(20): 4778–4784.
Kim, Y. K. and A. F. Lewis. 2003. Concepts for energy-
interactive textiles. MRS Bulletin 28(8): 592–596.
Kim, H. K., M. S. Kim, K. Song, Y. H. Park, and J. Y.
Lee. 2003. EMI shielding intrinsically conducting
polymer/PET textile composites. Synthetic Metals
135–136: 105–106.
Kind, S. and M. Bovenschulte. 2006. Trends in micro
system technology 2006. Berlin: VDI/VDE/IT.
ohler, A. R. 2008. End-of-life implications of elec-
tronic textiles: Assessment of a converging technol-
ogy. M.Sc. thesis, IIIEE, Lund University, Lund,
ohler, A. and L. Erdmann. 2004. Expected environ-
mental impacts of pervasive computing. Human
and Ecological Risk Assessment 10: 831–852.
ohler, A. R., C. Som, A. Helland, and F. Gottschalk.
2008. Studying the potential release of carbon
nanotubes throughout the application life cycle.
Journal of Cleaner Production 16(8–9): 927–937.
Kolbe, J., A. Arp, and F. Calderone, 2005. Inkjettable
conductive adhesive for use in microelectronics
and microsystems technology. Paper presented at
the International IEEE Conference on Polymers
and Adhesives in Microelectronics and Photon-
ics, 23 October 2005, Wroclaw, Poland.
auchi, P. H., P. A. W¨
ager, M. Eugster, G. Gross-
mann, and L. M. Hilty, 2005. End of life impacts
of pervasive computing. IEEE Technology and So-
ciety Magazine 24(1): 45–53.
ubben, J. 2005. Funktionale Fasern und Tex-
tilien tec21. [Functional fibers and textiles.]
Fachzeitschrift f¨
ur Architektur, Ingenieruwesen und
Umwelt 41: 10–13.
Marculescu, D., R. Marculescu, N. H. Zamora, P.
Stanley-Marbell, P. K. Khosla, S. Park, and S.
Jayaraman. 2003. Electronic textiles: A platform
for pervasive computing. Proceedings of the IEEE
91(12): 1995–2018.
McWilliams, A. 2007. Smart and interactive textiles.Re-
port AVM050B. Wellesley, MA: BCC Research.
Mecheels, S., B. Schroth, and C. Breckenfelder. 2004.
Smart clothes.B
onnigheim, Germany: Hohen-
steiner Institute.
Meoli, D. 2002. Interactive electronic textiles devel-
opment: A review of technologies. Journal of Tex-
tile and Apparel Technology and Management 2(2):
Morf, L., E. Kuhn, F. Adam, and D. B¨
oni. 2009. Op-
timized metal recovery from waste incineration
bottom ash with dry extraction system. Paper pre-
sented at the R’09 Twin World Congress, Davos,
Switzerland, 14–16 September 2009.
Morley, N., S. Slater, S. Russell, M. Tipper, and G. D.
Ward. 2006. Recycling of low grade clothing waste.
London: Defra.
Mythili, K., R. Gnanavivekanandhan, and D.
Gopalakrishnan. 2007. Conductive textiles: A
new trend. Asian Textile Journal 16(3): 55–63.
Park, S. and S. Jayaraman. 2003. Smart textiles: Wear-
able electronic systems. MRS Bulletin 28(8): 585–
Puckett, J., S. Westervelt, R. Gutierrez, and Y.
Takamyia. 2005. The digital dump, exporting re-
use and abuse to Africa. Seattle, WA, USA: Basel
Action Network.
Schluep, M., C. Hagelueken, R. Kuehr, and F. Maga-
lini. 2009. Recycling: From e-waste to resources.
Bonn, Germany: UNEP and United Nations
Shim, B. S., W. Chen, C. Doty, and N. A. Kotov. 2008.
Smart electronic yarns and wearable fabrics for
human biomonitoring made by carbon nanotube
coating with polyelectrolytes. Nano Letters 8(12):
Starner, T. 2001. The challenges of wearable comput-
ing: Part 1. IEEE Micro 21(4): 44–52.
Stork, W. 2008. Intelligente Kleidung f¨
ur mehr Kom-
fort und Sicherheit. [Intelligent clothes for higher
comfort and safety]. Karlsruher Wirtschaftsspiegel
2007/2008, 50: 33.
Stylios, G. K. 2007. Editorial: Smart textiles special
issue. Transactions of the Institute of Measurement
and Control 29(3/4): 213–214.
Tang, S. L. P. and G. K. Stylios. 2006. An overview
of smart technologies for clothing design and en-
gineering. International Journal of Clothing Science
and Technology 18(1–2): 108–128.
ager, P., M. Eugster, L. M. Hilty, and C. Som. 2005.
Smart labels in municipal solid waste: A case for
the precautionary principle? Environmental Impact
Assessment Review 25(5): 567–586.
Waste Watch. 2006. Textile recycling informa-
tion sheet.
InformationSheets/Textiles.htm. Accessed Feb-
ruary 2011.
Widmer, R., H. Oswald-Krapf, D. Sinha-Khetriwal, M.
Schnellmann, and H. B¨
oni. 2005. Global perspec-
tives on e-waste. Environmental Impact Assessment
Review 25(5): 436–458.
510 Journal of Industrial Ecology
About the Authors
Andreas R. K¨
ohler is a Ph.D. researcher in
the Design for Sustainability section at Techni-
cal University Delft, in the Netherlands. Lorenz
M. Hilty is head of the Technology and So-
ciety Lab at Empa, the Swiss Federal Labora-
tories for Materials Science and Technology,
in St. Gallen, Switzerland, and professor of in-
formatics and sustainability at the University
of Z¨
urich, Switzerland. Conny Bakker is assis-
tant professor in the Design for Sustainability
section at Technical University Delft, in the
Supporting Information
Additional supporting information may be found in the online version of this article:
S1: This appendix contains a description of a model for the diffusion of e-textiles in Germany
based on past mobile phone diffusion statistics.
S2: This appendix contains a copy of the expert survey of e-textile developers in Europe.
Please note: Wiley-Blackwell is not responsible for the content or functionality of any supporting
information supplied by the authors. Any queries (other than missing material) should be
directed to the corresponding author for the article.
ohler, Hilty, and Bakker, Prospective Impacts of Electronic Textiles 511
... Yazıcı et al. [129] developed conductive composites by applying different conductive polymers (PEDOT, PPy, PCz) on reinforced composites of natural fibers from agricultural wastes (artichoke, luffa, banana). At the end of their rather short lifetime, conductive textiles will unavoidably turn into harder-to-recycle waste, together with built-in contemporary electronic components [130,131]. Currently, there is a lack of standardization of waste streams for e-textiles, and infrastructure does not exist to manage mixed-material waste [131,132]. They may enter the cycling schemes for e-waste (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) or be disposed of together with ordinary old clothes as municipal solid waste (which is more likely). ...
... At the end of their rather short lifetime, conductive textiles will unavoidably turn into harder-to-recycle waste, together with built-in contemporary electronic components [130,131]. Currently, there is a lack of standardization of waste streams for e-textiles, and infrastructure does not exist to manage mixed-material waste [131,132]. They may enter the cycling schemes for e-waste (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) or be disposed of together with ordinary old clothes as municipal solid waste (which is more likely). ...
Full-text available
The presented review summarizes recent studies in the field of electro conductive textiles as an essential part of lightweight and flexible textile-based electronics (so called e-textiles), with the main focus on a relatively simple and low-cost dip-coating technique that can easily be integrated into an existing textile finishing plant. Herein, numerous electro conductive compounds are discussed, including intrinsically conductive polymers, carbon-based materials, metal, and metal-based nanomaterials, as well as their combinations, with their advantages and drawbacks in contributing to the sectors of healthcare, military, security, fitness, entertainment, environmental, and fashion, for applications such as energy harvesting, energy storage, real-time health and human motion monitoring, personal thermal management, Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) shielding, wireless communication, light emitting, tracking, etc. The greatest challenge is related to the wash and wear durability of the conductive compounds and their unreduced performance during the textiles’ lifetimes, which includes the action of water, high temperature, detergents, mechanical forces, repeated bending, rubbing, sweat, etc. Besides electrical conductivity, the applied compounds also influence the physical-mechanical, optical, morphological, and comfort properties of textiles, depending on the type and concentration of the compound, the number of applied layers, the process parameters, as well as additional protective coatings. Finally, the sustainability and end-of-life of e-textiles are critically discussed in terms of the circular economy and eco-design, since these aspects are mainly neglected, although e-textile’ waste could become a huge problem in the future when their mass production starts.
... Para Post & Orth (1997), a combinação de áreas e ramos de atividade levam à evolução e criação de novos produtos, solucionando desafios que oferecem novas oportunidades de negócio, desafios estes que carecem de investigação, desenvolvimento, experimentação e validação. Nesta perspetiva, as roupas inteligentes encontram-se audaciosamente posicionadas entre a tecnologia e o design, para além das fortes implicações na esfera interdisciplinar da interação humano-computador (Lupton, 2014) (Köhler et al., 2011) Na primeiro etapa (adoção) os dispositivos eletrónicos são incorporados ou agregados a uma plataforma têxtil, por exemplo, incorporados em bolsos (Ridolfi, Vetter, Solà, & Sartori, 2010). Na segunda e atual etapa (integração) os componentes eletrónicos devem ser fisicamente inseridos no material têxtil, aqui a eletrónica faz parte do tecido, sendo, por exemplo, sensores bordados, integração de fios condutores, placas de circuito costuradas, como o uso de unidades de medida inercial anexadas à roupa a fim de gravar e transpor os movimentos para um modelo digital (Kang et al., 2017). ...
... No entanto, apesar do grande número de publicações, poucos foram realmente finalizados como produtos vestíveis inteligentes projetados para o desporto. Existem alguns exemplos de literatura, mas é necessário classificar os artigos relacionados e identificar tendências promissoras ou desafios abertos para orientar pesquisas futuras.Esta capítulo tem como objetivo fornecer uma visão abrangente de possíveis tecnologias adotadas, integradas ou combinadas(Köhler et al., 2011) no design de dispositivos eletrónicos vestíveis aplicados às várias modalidades desportivas. Em particular, pretende-se incluir os seguintes aspetos: i) catalogar possíveis tecnologias de medição, monitorização e interação, bem como o desempenho da integração de dispositivos eletrónicos; ii) classificar as evidências tecnológicas para a eficácia da aplicação das tecnologias evocadas; iii) avaliar a vestibilidade dessas inovações. ...
Full-text available
Despite the substantial implications in the interdisciplinary field of human-computer interaction (HCI), there has been a movement for sportswear to embrace numerous innovations in its design, both in electronic technologies and in materials and functionalisation. Audaciously situated between fashion design and wearable devices, these clothes roam between information and communications technology (ICT) and the internet of things (IoT) platforms, bringing benefits and functionalities, consequently new features of interaction between clothing and the user. In this context, and within the scope of the activities of the TSSIPRO – Technologies for Sustainable and Smart Innovative Products, the development of knowledge was obtained through two case studies, each of which was accompanied by a method. The “Smartsuit” study, which was guided by the Double Diamond method, focused on cycling. It corresponds to an introductory and multidisciplinary contact to the process of designing smart garments for sport. Through the author's empirical, experimental, personal experience, it allowed the design and prototyping of a skinsuit with embedded electrodes capable of monitoring heart rate by electrocardiogram (ECG). The “Avantgarde” study was guided by the User-Centered Design method and focused on fencing. It corresponds to a maturation of the theme and identifies the user's requirements. It allowed, through the author's conceptual, theoretical, methodical, and organized experience, the conceptualization of a smart uniform with a flexible piezoresistive pressure sensor integrated into the textile capable of capturing the performance of the weapon's touch, facilitating the refereeing, and scoring of the game. It also features with inertial sensors (IMU) coupled to the textiles capable of capturing and tracking the athlete’s movements by transposing the movement to a digital model. Here, it was possible to select and evaluate the wearable technologies through the analysis of quantitative and qualitative data provided by users. This thesis contributes to the growing body of research on the use of wearable computers for sports activities. Through the user, innovation, usability, and design are emphasized. More specifically, it validates the interest of athletes and fencing coaches in pressure and inertial sensor technologies. At the level of the design process, it made possible to investigate and evaluate through two distinct models and, therefore, identify their differences and limitations.
... 32 Moreover, textronics with inadequate washability and weak electroactive interfaces can release a signicant amount of toxic organic/inorganic elements in the eco-system and predicted to bring the further threat of a high volume of e-waste in the coming decades. [33][34][35] Thus, to improve the washability of textronics, numerous devices have been developed and some prototypes have been deemed washable, even though they retain electrical functionality for a limited number of washing cycles. [36][37][38][39][40] Some studies even claimed excellent hydrophobicity or durability without performing any washing test. ...
The desire for close human contact with electronic components for portable sensing, energy harvesting, and healthcare has sparked massive advances in wearable textile electronic (textronic) technology. Hierarchical textile assemblies (yarn/fibers, or fabrics) infused with various nanoscale electroactive materials have provided perfect conformability, allowing us to transform our bodies into wearable electrical terminals. However, the short-lifespan of textronic devices under repeated washing is dwindling the customer adoption and market reliability of these intelligent systems. Without adequate advancement in washable textronic designs, it will be difficult to mitigate the utmost warning of a high volume of e-waste in the coming decades. To this end, a comprehensive review is summarized on the current state of the arts of washable textronic designs concerning different innovative strategies such as unique textile geometries, encapsulations, adhesion behaviors, self-repairability, as well as standard washing protocols to tackle common washer stresses. Furthermore, the potential challenges regarding the current processing strategies are pointed out, and promising outlooks on how to develop realistic washable textronic systems in the future are envisioned. It is hoped that this review will attract interested researchers to pursue further study that could aid in the right standardization for developing futuristic long-lasting textronics.
... Les e-textiles sont, par définition, une combinaison de différents matériaux aux propriétés différentes : les conducteurs pour les propriétés électriques et les textiles traditionnels pour les propriétés mécaniques et le confort. D'après Kölher et al. [34] il sera difficile de recycler les e-textiles en raison de la dispersion en faible quantité de matériaux rares au sein d'un large volume de déchet textile. ...
Cette étude s’inscrit dans le cadre du projet ANR CONTEXT et vise à développer des textiles connectés pour la communication autour du corps humain par le biais de structures textiles fonctionnant avec la technologie de la communication en champs proches (NFC). Ces dispositifs textiles doivent être capables d’émettre et recevoir des champs électromagnétiques afin de transmettre énergie et données sans fils.Le principal objectif est donc de développer des systèmes de télécommunication fonctionnants avec le protocole NFC en utilisant seulement des matériaux et des procédés textiles. Ces structures doivent présenter des performances électromagnétiques acceptables, tout en gardant des caractéristiques mécaniques nécessaires à l’habillement.Les applications de tels dispositifs sont multiples car ils peuvent être associés à tous les textiles connectés. En effet, ils ont pour vocation de remplacer les connectiques rigides (fil, boutons pression, soudure, …) et, par conséquent, de permettre aux divers capteurs présents dans les vêtements de communiquer et d’être alimentés directement par un smartphone, sans fil.Ces structures sont principalement réalisées avec des bobines spirales circulaires planes de 40 mm de rayon, constituées d’une ligne de courant composée de trois fils textiles conducteur Datatrans® superposés, afin de diminuer la résistance linéique. Les fils textiles conducteurs sont, quant à eux, composés de quatre filaments de cuivres purs retordus avec des filaments de polyester. L’ensemble de ces fils est recouvert d’une gaine diélectrique de filament de polyamide. Ces fils ont été déposés sur une toile de coton à l’aide d’un procédé de broderie industrielle. Deux types de structures ont été conçues : les antennes NFC textiles et le relais NFC textiles. Les relais peuvent être considérés comme des « rallonges » électromagnétiques. Ils sont composés de deux antennes reliées par des lignes de transmission, en circuit fermé. Ils permettent de recevoir un champ électromagnétique par une antenne et de l’émettre avec les autres.Les antennes et relais NFC textiles peuvent être assimilés à des circuits RLC. Les éléments électriques qui les composent (résistance, inductance et capacité) ont d’abord été réalisés à partir de matériaux textiles et étudiés de manière expérimentale. Ensuite, ces éléments ont été associés pour créer des antennes et des relais NFC 100% textiles. Les caractéristiques électromagnétiques de ces nouvelles structures ont ensuite été étudiées.Une approche théorique a permis de décrire le comportement électrique des structures NFC textiles. L’impédance des circuits RLC à été calculée à partir de leurs schémas électriques afin de déterminer leurs fréquences de résonance et leurs facteurs de qualité. Ensuite, des simulations numériques ont permis de modéliser les propriétés électriques des structure NFC textile et de les comparer aux résultats théoriques précédents. Enfin, des prototypes d’antennes et de relais présentant des caractéristiques géométriques différentes ont été caractérisés pour déterminer leurs comportements réels.Ces systèmes de télécommunications textiles possèdent des fréquences de résonance proches de 13,56 MHz et des facteurs de qualité compris entre 45 et 55. De plus, ils présentent des coefficients de transmission à la résonance compris entre -10 et -5 dB. Ces résultats ont permis de réaliser des preuves de concept de la transmission d’énergie et de données au travers des antennes et relais NFC textiles.
... The application of smart/wearable technology can provide specific property to sense, respond and react from the wearer and/or the surrounding environment. However, there are significant uncertainties concerning the sustainability of technical/smart textile production process and the recycling process of these textiles (Allwood et al., 2015;Köhler et al., 2011;Ossevoort, 2013). Very few LCA studies have been done incorporating these technologies. ...
Full-text available
Textiles products have high environmental impact compared to other products. Numerous studies have been performed on the environmental impact of various textile products and production-related activities with the aim to reduce the impact from textile supply chain. This report reviewed some existing studies on the environmental impact throughout the textile supply chain. It provides the background, practices and knowledge gaps in respect of the environmental implications of specific textile products as well as their supply chain. The literature generally confirms that the textile production stage and use stage contribute the highest impact for different impact categories. The recommendations for future work derived from this study include evaluation of the environmental impact of fibre mixing, environmental impact of various recycling/reuse options compared to landfill and environmental impact of technical/smart textile products. Investigation of the environmental impact and economic feasibility of different recycling options compared to the landfill option is a significant area of research which is involved in the policy development to increase circularity of textile waste. Analysis of the environmental impact of textile consumption and disposal using life cycle assessment in respect of different geographical location is also another future investigative topic to develop a model of sustainable supply chain. This life cycle model is also important for guiding stakeholders in how to continue the growth of the apparel sector sustainably.
Full-text available
Food, shelter and clothing are three basic necessities of life. Textiles are necessary for human beings to cover and protect the body from different weather conditions. In the household, textiles are used in carpeting, furnishing, window shades, towels, table covers, bed sheets, handkerchiefs, cleaning devices and in art. In the workplace, they are used in industrial and scientific processes such as tents, flags, nets, kites, sails, parachutes and filtering. Technical textiles are used for industrial purposes – for automotive applications, medical textiles (e.g. implants, personal protective equipment and clothing, wound care and compression), geotextiles (stabilisation; reinforcement of embankments), agrotextiles, protective clothing (e.g. against heat and radiation for fire-retardant clothing, against molten metals for welders, stab protection, and bullet proof vests), packaging and for making advanced materials like composites. In the case of apparel, ‘fast fashion’ has led to increased consumption of textiles and thereby increased textile waste, which poses a great challenge to today’s world in terms of unsustainable disposal. Textile waste has also become a greater threat to modern society mainly because of constant growth in the production and consumption of non-biodegradable synthetic fibres. Unless adequately treated, textile wastes from hospitals may carry hazardous pathogens whilst many fashion clothing items contain non-bio-degradable chemicals which can create havoc in the environment following their disposal, so the recycling of waste textiles has grown in importance. Many studies have shown that much of what would otherwise become waste textiles could be successfully upcycled to produce value-added products. However, the true potential of waste textiles is not yet realized due to many reasons, such as the lack of an adequate textile waste management system, the complexity of the required treatment of some types of textile materials (fibre blends or mixed-fibre textiles) and poor organisation and control over supply chains. This issue of Textile Progress reports on research into the generation of textile waste, its detailed classification, the global textile market, and the environmental impacts of waste textiles. The various challenges in textile waste management and the application of techniques of upcycling waste textiles are critically examined and ways of utilising waste textiles to produce upcycled products are explored.
Full-text available
Electrical stimulation can be used for the treatment of various nerve and muscle injuries as well as acute and chronic pain conditions. An electrical pulse is applied to a muscle or nerve to activate excitable tissue using internal or external electrodes with the aim of building muscle strength, artificially creating or supporting limb movement or reducing pain. Textile electrodes offer several advantages over conventionally used disposable surface electrodes: they are flexible and re-usable and they do not require hydrogels, thereby avoiding skin irritation and allergic reactions and enhancing user comfort. This article presents a literature review that assesses the state of research on textile electrode constructions. Based on the review, production approaches and designs are compared, methods for evaluating stimulation discomfort and pain are proposed and issues related to user compliance are discussed. The article concludes with suggestions for future work focused on investigating the impacts of textile-based electrode parameters on comfort, convenience and ease of use.
Electro conductive textiles approach supports the idea of a smooth combination of the two worlds of electronics and clothing. Trends in electro-conductive textiles and smart fabrics try to find a symbiosis of electronics and clothing. There is an urgent need to develop electro conductive textiles to avoid the accumulation of the electrostatic charge which results in various problems such as fire, shock and dust accumulation. In order to develop more appealing wearable electronics, conductive materials are being used transformed traditional textiles and apparel products into light weight, wireless wearable computing devices. The various ways to embed electronic circuitry in fabric, depending on the choice of substrate. In electro-spinning, the force of electrostatic repulsion is used to generate a fine, spraying jet of polymer that forms a mesh at an electrically grounded collection surface. Other methods include melt spinning plant, non-woven plant and chemical treatment plants. Meanwhile, applications ofconductive textiles include the fabric keyboard sewn from conducting and non-conducting fabric, fabric broadband such as buses to connect various digital devices, firefly dress, battlefield, medical applications, space and industrial applications.
This review examines textile fibers and fabrics in the context of their interaction with various forms of energy, such as electromagnetic (photolytic), electrical, magnetic, thermal, chemical, and mechanical. This interaction can involve conversion, storage, or management of energy. Examples are described suggesting some new material configurations that could be incorporated into textiles to create special energy-interactive textile (EITX) structures. Areas discussed are the management of electron flow (electrical resistivity) and the absorption of mechanical energy in textile fibers and fabrics. Surface resistance studies on carbon nanotubes and conductive carbon-black-filled films of poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) and paraffin wax show that the electrical conductivity of these materials depends upon the matrix material type and the amount of charge-carrying particles in the matrix. PMMA films filled with carbon nanotubes are found to be more electrically conductive than matrices filled with conductive carbon black. Mechanical-energy interactions of flocked textile surfaces show that in compression, they exhibit unique, gradual load-deflection behavior. This effect should be useful in applications requiring impact-energy absorption. Finally, the functional steps in an integrated energy-interactive textile system are discussed.
The developed world, increasingly aware of "inconvenient truths" about global warming and sustainability, is turning its attention to possible remedies-eco-efficiency, sustainable development, and corporate social responsibility, among others. But such measures are mere Band-Aids, and they may actually do more harm than good, says John Ehrenfeld, a pioneer in the field of industrial ecology. In this deeply considered book, Ehrenfeld challenges conventional understandings of "solving" environmental problems and offers a radically new set of strategies to attain sustainability. The book is founded upon this new definition: sustainability is the possibility that humans and other life will flourish on Earth forever. There are obstacles to this hopeful vision, however, and overcoming them will require us to transform our behavior, both individually and collectively. Ehrenfeld identifies problematic cultural attributes-such as the unending consumption that characterizes modern life-and outlines practical steps toward developing sustainability as a mindset. By focusing on the "being" mode of human existence rather than on the unsustainable "having" mode we cling to now, he asserts, a sustainable world is within our reach.
Protection and aesthetics are the two common dimensions or attributes typically associated with textiles as clothing. However, with the rapidly changing needs of today's consumers, a third dimension is emerging—that of “intelligence”—that is being integrated into fabrics to produce interactive textiles, or i-textiles. This new class of wearable electronic systems is being designed to meet new and innovative applications in the military, public safety, healthcare, space exploration, sports, and consumer fitness fields. In this article, the concept of i-textiles is presented, along with the building blocks for its realization. This is followed by an overview of the design and development of the Smart Shirt, an “intelligent” garment that provides an extremely versatile framework for the incorporation of sensing, monitoring, and information-processing devices. The key applications of the Smart Shirt technology and their impact in transforming healthcare are discussed. Finally, the need to advance this paradigm and identify opportunities to transform passive textiles into the new generation of interactive, or “smart,” textiles is discussed.
One of the fastest growing technologies of our times is that of mobile phones. In this article we use the assumption that the diffusion of mobile technology, as measured by the number of active mobile accounts, follows the well known S-curve of natural growth in competition systems. The accuracy of the logistic fit is tested against actual data for the whole world, Europe, China and the GSM system. Using the produced models predictions concerning the future of mobile business are deliberated.According to these models active mobile accounts around the globe are expected to grow from 1.7 billion in 2004 to approximately 2 billion in 2008, reaching a peak penetration of 29.2%. Growth barriers, apart from the age of the potential user, are also low income and extreme poverty. Europe, early adopter of mobile technology and leader in active mobile accounts against all other regions in the world, has apparently reached a peak with almost every European, apart from the very young or very old, using a mobile phone. The mobile market in China is anticipated to exceed 500 million active accounts and may increase even further depending on the economic and social reform that is currently under way in that part of the world. GSM will most likely remain the leading mobile technology in the future as it is today.The growth process for the world, Europe, and the GSM system is almost completed and during this stage instabilities may occur before the potential emergence of a new wave of growth.
Engineering education has focused on the mathematical and scientific principles which underpin proper design. Technological capabilities have, in some instances, overcome society's ability to adapt behavior to new technologies. Sustainable systems should be engineered to address economic, environmental, and behavioral issues as well as technical issues. Developing education curricula that encourages students to consider all facets involved in sustainable systems has challenged engineering programs. A pilot course based upon the design of a sanitation facility for a school in Azove, Benin, was taught in the 2004-2005 academic year. The objective of the course was to create a meaningful project that would teach sustainability as part of the design process. Over 1,200 7th- to 10th-grade students at CEG in Azove lack access to clean water and basic sanitation facilities. A site visit to the CEG confirmed that water and sanitation were priorities of the school board and parents of the children. Students at Gonzaga University designed a water and sanitation system for CEG and learned about sustainability requirements for structures, hydraulics, and water and wastewater treatment. Upon implementation of the proposed design, exposure to pathogenic organisms is expected to decrease substantially. Students were encouraged to consider sustainability issues in design and problems associated with water and sanitation in the developing world. Incorporating sustainability lessons through design and peer presentation significantly improved the education in global awareness and sustainability as perceived by students and professionals.