(Left) Intelligent Textiles showing off their conductive "e-textiles" (Right) Conductive vest, looks exactly like its non-electrical original
Ask any soldier and they’ll tell you that the more gear you use when you ‘kit up’ the harder it is to move. Communication systems like the PRC-153, while smaller than their predecessors, take up a lot of real-estate on plate-carriers and tactical vests alike. Add up all the other electronic gadgets such as GPS units, tactical tablets and NVG systems and you’ll quickly get lost in the cluster that used to be your body-armor. Oh I almost forgot; each one of those ‘cool’ gadgets requires power, and this power usually (9 times out of 10) comes in the form of batteries, lots and lots of batteries.
To help free up some of the clutter and weight associated with these electronics, a UK company called "Intelligent Textiles" has designed an electrically conducive yarn that can be woven into uniforms or body-armor. The ‘e-textile’ allows for power to be transferred from a single battery pack to any location with a plug built-in to the fabric such as helmets, gloves, backpacks, sleeves or pant legs. The company states that even the soldier’s weapon can be outfitted to take advantage of the fabric and future versions will even come with a fold-out keyboard. This advanced electrical textile does away with a lot of the cable clutter as well as cutting all the batteries carried down to just one needed to power almost everything the soldier carries.
Intelligent textiles have fielded a prototype for testing purposes future versions will need to be waterproofed so the fabric doesn’t short-out or rust in wet environments. The company is currently in talks with BAE Systems with hopes to have their e-textile uniforms on the field by 2017.
This is not the first to propose conductive thread. A team of researchers assembled from different schools developed a wire with a cotton substrate. Their work was for everyday use, not just for the world's war fighters, thankfully.