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.

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