Smart Textiles Design Lab Blog at The Swedish School of Textiles

Radiant Textiles: A framework for designing with electromagnetic phenomena

Erin Lewis

Licentiate Thesis:

Abstract [en]

The design of smart, interactive, computational, and electronic textiles involves working with unknown variables that expand the tangible dimensions of textiles. Non-visual concepts such as electromagnetic fields, electrical current, computational code, and the temporal attributes of materials that exhibit dynamic qualities require that textile designers be able to perceive and manipulate domains of the textile that extend beyond its conventional forms of expression. Through these qualities, the textile becomes an interface to otherwise imperceptible phenomena of electromagnetism and thereby opens up to new textile design expressions. However, to do so requires a shift in the understanding of how fundamental textile concepts such as material, form, and expression interrelate to affect the expressive domain of the textile itself.

This research aims to describe the material attributes, characteristics, and expressions of electromagnetic phenomena as explored through experimental research methods and suggests ways in which electromagnetic phenomena can be worked with as a design material for smart textiles. Further, it seeks to expand upon conventional design variables of textiles to include its electromagnetic domain. The experiments presented in this thesis suggest a framework for working with magnetic, dielectric, and conductive materials through textile techniques of weaving and knitting. The experiments point to the interrelationship between the textile material, structure, and form, identifying this triad as the key influencers that determine how textile expressions can embrace electromagnetic phenomena.

The results of the experimental work are methods that show accessible ways for textile designers to visualize and perceive electromagnetic fields in textiles, such as sensing the impressions of textile structures on the magnetic field using a method of scanned-surface imaging; perceiving electromagnetic fields using textile antennas and spatial exploration, resulting in sonic expression; and kinetic textile behaviours at the yarn level through magnetic interactions. Furthermore, the design possibilities of the materials, methods and tools suggested in this thesis are demonstrated through examples of interactive artefacts, e.g., in the form of ambient energy harvesting forest mobiles and radio-frequency (RF) body extensions. The results suggest the variety of electromagnetic textile expressions that can be created when methods and tools to perceive and manipulate electromagnetic phenomena in textiles are consciously utilized.

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