This paper presents, for the first time, the electrical response of knitted conductive fabrics to a considerable number of cycles of deformation in view of their use as wearable sensors. The changes in the electrical properties of four knitted conductive textiles, made of 20% stainless steel and 80% polyester fibers, were studied during unidirectional elongation in an Instron machine. Two tests sessions of 250 stretch–recovery cycles were conducted for each sample at two elongation rates (9.6 and 12 mm/s) and at three constant currents (1, 3 and 6 mA). The first session assessed the effects of an extended cyclic mechanical loading (preconditioning) on the electrical properties, especially on the electrical stabilization. The second session, which followed after a 5 minute interval under identical conditions, investigated whether the stabilization and repeatability of the electrical features were maintained after rest. The influence of current and elongation rate on the resistance measurements was also analyzed. In particular, the presence of a semiconducting behavior of the stainless steel fibers was proved by means of different test currents. Lastly, the article shows the time-dependence of the fabrics by means of hysteresis graphs and their non-linear behavior thanks to a time–frequency analysis. All knit patterns exhibited interesting changes in electrical properties as a result of mechanical preconditioning and extended use. For instance, the gauge factor, which indicates the sensitivity of the fabric sensor, varied considerably with the number of cycles, being up to 20 times smaller than that measured using low cycle number protocols.
Isaia, C., McNally, D. S., McMaster, S. A., & Branson, D. T. (in press). Effect of mechanical preconditioning on the electrical properties of knitted conductive textiles during cyclic loading. Textile Research Journal, https://doi.org/10.1177/0040517517748496