The right switch: Discover Quantum Tunnelling Composite and technical textiles


As we invest in more mobile technology, we run the risk of bulging pockets and heavy handbags. This activity looks at finding a solution to this problem and is a great activity for investigating electrical circuits and resistance, and much more...

Discover how Quantum Tunnelling Composite (QTC) can be used as a technical textile switch; could this change the future of our clothing? Great for clubs or classes this activity allows students to be creative engineers as they are asked to design and make a new consumer product using the curious properties of QTC.

This session should fill a club time slot as a one-off project (or it can be used as part of a short-term project if extras are followed).


What you'll need

  • General circuits equipment including crocodile clips, leads, PSU (6v), buzzers, bulbs (the number depends on the size of your group)
  • Some fabric (any fabric should be ok, for example old clothes or cotton) and some foam, such as a sponge that you can cut up.
  • A conducting material, such as aluminium foil
  • Scissors and glue
  • QTC pills (these are available at stock code QTC 001

What to do

QTC can be used to make a textile switch.  In this resource, students will make a fabric switch to control the circuit in a jacket for a bulb or buzzer.  Detailed instructions are given to make the circuit and switch to show how the QTC can act like a sensor as it responds to the body.

The resource contains lots of questions to ask of students when they are doing this activity which encourages them to think about what is happening and how the material could be used for other things, as well as other sections containing explanations and handy hints for those delivering the activity.  It also includes a case study of a scientist who uses QTC.

Engineering is ...

... being creative and facing modern challenges such as understanding QTC and designing suitable applications is just one aspect of engineering.

Engineers with an interest in design look at creating the initial ideas and ‘blueprints’ for systems, structures and products, testing models rigorously to ensure they work, using computer aided design (CAD) to help.

There are several different degree courses available covering engineering and design requiring A-levels, 14–19 Diplomas or Scottish Advanced Highers for entry (

Related fields: Materials science and electronic engineering.