Since April 2020, four research teams from both sides of the Channel have been developing an innovative antibacterial bandage prototype using smart, light-emitting inks. This initiative, which aims to develop the first bandage of its kind, is set to support the global fight against antibiotic resistance.
SmartT (Smart Textiles for Regional Industry and Smart Specialisation Sectors) is a €5.4 million Interreg France Channel England project which develops smart textiles and inks, aims to bring this technology to the health sector – the largest consumer of antibug textiles.
Smart textiles are created by integrating OLEC (organic light-emitting cell) pixels which emit light when electrically stimulated. Every OLEC pixel is made of five layers, with the inner layers containing smart ink enabling the production of light of a specific colour. The upper and lower layers are designed to protect the light-emitting inner layers from scratches, air oxidation or corrosion caused by washing.
In the case of the SmartT prototype, the smart ink emits ultraviolet light with the potential to kill superbugs. The bandage could therefore represent a precious instrument against antibiotic resistance, one of the most pressing issues facing global health, according to the World Health Organisation.
The development phase of the prototype is led by the University of Southampton, a leading UK centre for eTextiles, with researchers from the University of Rouen in charge of the conception of the light-emitting inks, using cutting-edge, “green chemistry” technologies. Another SmartT partner, INSA Rouen Normandie, is working on a biobased coating required to protect the smart inks.
SmartT project is set to produce a colour chart comprised of a hundred smart inks, to address applications spanning a diverse array of industrial sectors.
The project brings together specialists and SMEs in the south of England and the north of France, developing opportunities for the commercialisation of smart inks and textiles. This market is expected to be worth €2 billion in the next ten years, compared to €100 million today.
Other applications of this highly innovative technology are being studied by SmartT research teams. IFREMER (Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer) is testing the effectiveness of eTextiles as an antifouling material for ships while SplashMaps, a British SME, is developing dynamic textile maps to be used by the tourism, leisure and defence industries.
The technology could also be replicated and adopted in sectors such as fashion, sports, safety items, or advertising.