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Liquid electronics: It’s not an oxymoron

My Take | March 25, 2024 | By: Janet Preus

The words “liquid” and “electronics” are not, in general, words you want to see together. I have pictures in my head of warnings having to do with using an electric hair dryer in the bathtub. That may get a laugh today, but who among us can explain how wearables crafted from e-textiles can be safe to sweat in and then thrown in a washing machine?

In the world of e-textiles, liquid electronics—more correctly labeled printed electronics and flexible hybrid electronics, and further abbreviated to their acronyms, PE and FHE—could be the future of wearables and other e-textile applications. No more wires—even ones of nano size—and eventually, no more “pucks,” either. These are the small battery packs needed to power most wearables today. 

Of course “liquid” doesn’t mean “water.” It means a material in liquid form that is, or can be made, conductive. I do not pretend to be able to explain how electronics can be imparted into an ink or some other liquid form; I believe in it like I believe in the turn of the earth, as there’s enough evidence to convince me of both. This site has published a variety of articles having to do with PE. Each one expands my ability to explain beyond, “It’s a miracle,” which would be my fall-back. 

Marie O’Mahony, in her feature in this issue, “Tackling the tough challenges in e-textiles,” discusses the progress underway in PEs and FHEs. Dr. Mahony recently attended LOPEC (Large-area, Organic & Printed Electronics Convention) held in Munich. The fact that there is at least one conference and trade show devoted to this market area is telling; that it has grown significantly supports the predictions about future growth in this industry segment, as well. 

If you’re even close to my age, you may not see affordable e-textile applications using this technology in Target in your lifetime. It may be nascent, but it has a ways to go for widespread commercial viability. But maybe not. I don’t have a Fitbit (or similar), but I’d try out a PE- or FHE-enhanced shirt, assuming it’s in my price range. Wouldn’t you?

We’ve all run into people in our lives who won’t take credible scientific evidence seriously until it figuratively hits them over the head. By that time, whatever walk of life they’re in has left them on a dirt path alone. You don’t want to be in that position with e-textile technology, I’m sure, so at least learn what you can—and be among the first to buy that shirt when it shows up in your favorite retail outlet. 

Janet Preus is senior editor of Textile Technology Source. She can be reached at

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