Don't be surprised if someday in the bar or hotel lobby, the pillows or drapes in front of you suddenly light up and display some luxury goods. At the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, Philips Electronics is demonstrating new photonic textiles, or fabrics that contain lighting systems made up of compact light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that can serve as interactive displays, among other things.
Researchers at Philips and the textile institute TiTV Griez in the Netherlands have developed an interconnecting substrate made entirely of cloth, as well as flexible and drapable substrates from plastics and films. On top of these substrates, they have placed passive matrices of compact RGB (red, green, blue) LED packages.
Since the fabric material covering the miniature light sources naturally diffuses light, each pixel seems bigger than it actually is. As such, the LEDs remain small and unobtrusive, while the fabric retains its soft look and feel.
To make photonic textiles interactive, Philips has incorporated sensors and wireless communication devices, such as short-range Bluetooth and cellular Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) into the fabric.
The Dutch consumer electronics giant sees demand for photonic textiles in application areas such as lighting, communications and health care.