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Textile Materials for the Design of Wearable Antennas: A Survey

Salvado, R. ; Loss, C. ; Gonçalves, R. ; Pinho, P.

Sensors Vol. 12, Nº 11, pp. 15841 - 15857, November, 2012.

ISSN (print): 1424-3210
ISSN (online): 1424-8220

Journal Impact Factor: 2,033 (in 2015)

Digital Object Identifier: 10.3390/s121115841

In the broad context of Wireless Body Sensor Networks for healthcare and pervasive applications, the design of wearable antennas offers the possibility of ubiquitous monitoring, communication and energy harvesting and storage. Specific requirements for wearable antennas are a planar structure and flexible construction materials. Several properties of the materials influence the behaviour of the antenna. For instance, the bandwidth and the efficiency of a planar microstrip antenna are mainly determined by the permittivity and the thickness of the substrate. The use of textiles in wearable antennas requires the characterization of their properties. Specific electrical conductive textiles are available on the market and have been successfully used. Ordinary textile fabrics have been used as substrates. However, little information can be found on the electromagnetic properties of regular textiles. Therefore this paper is mainly focused on the analysis of the dielectric properties of normal fabrics. In general, textiles present a very low dielectric constant that reduces the surface wave losses and increases the impedance bandwidth of the antenna. However, textile materials are constantly exchanging water molecules with the surroundings, which affects their electromagnetic properties. In addition, textile fabrics are porous, anisotropic and compressible materials whose thickness and density might change with low pressures. Therefore it is important to know how these characteristics influence the behaviour of the antenna in order to minimize unwanted effects. This paper presents a survey of the key points for the design and development of textile antennas, from the choice of the textile materials to the framing of the antenna. An analysis of the textile materials that have been used is also presented.