E-textiles have shown great promise within the microwave and antenna community to provide a low-mass, highly conformal option that integrates extremely well with fabric-based microwave devices and antenna platforms, but often not as well with more conventional devices.

The E-textile interconnect applied to a coaxial-to-stripline transition in an aperture-coupled microstrip antenna.
A key factor that has kept e-textile-based antennas and microwave devices from more widespread use is the issue of integrating the textile-based energy or signal guiding structures with conventional energy or signal guiding structures, such as coaxial lines and microstrip lines. Technologies that enable integration of e-textile and conventional signal guiding structures would represent a significant advancement to the state-of-the-art, and promote increased use of e-textile-based antennas and microwave structures.

This innovation is an E-textile interconnect, a technology that enables connection of an e-textile-based device with a conventionally constructed signal guiding structure (coax, microstrip line, stripline, etc.). A conventional version of this type of interconnect simply solders the center conductor of the coaxial line to the microstrip line. This technique fails when applied to e-textile-based conductive materials due to one or a combination of the textile base layers used for the e-textile conductor not surviving the soldering process, or the solder simply not bonding to the conductive materials that compose the e-textile conductor, resulting in a poor electrical connection.

Sewing the mesh to the e-textile conductor provides a good solderless electrical connection to the e-textile conductor, and provides both a better material to bond the solder to, as well as a potential means of dissipating heat from the textile base material (often e-textiles are constructed from a nylon-based textile) to reduce heating and possible damage of this material.

The conventional coaxial probe is soldered to the intermediate copper mesh material, which is sewn into the e-textile-based antenna. This feed may be modified and combined with an e-textile-based aperture-coupled feed.

This work was done by Timothy Kennedy, Patrick Fink, Andrew Chu, and Gregory Lin of Johnson Space Center. MSC-25415-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the March, 2015 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from this issue here.

Read more articles from the archives here.