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Fibre technology

Fabrics communicate with each other through light

Computing

A new design of fibre technology could prove to be a major breakthrough in scientific progress.

Springwise have seen various innovations designed to create smart fabrics. They range from a sports bra made from space-inspired material to a self-healing tent. Now researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new form of ‘soft hardware’.

This textile is unique in that it has electronic devices built directly into the fibres. As well as being a hard-fought scientific breakthrough, there are many advantages for such a design. The electronics are inherently waterproof, as they are protected by their integration into the fibre structure. They survived underwater testing for weeks at a time. In addition, this fabric is an indicator of rapid future progression for fibre capabilities.

The researchers achieved this leap forward by imbedding high speed optoelectronic semiconductor devices, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and diode photodetectors into fibres. These light-based electronics enable communication through light. This enables far more sophisticated functionality than the traditional method of making fibres in their liquid state.

At the moment, the practical focus has been on enabling more efficient and sophisticated communication between smart fabrics. There are endless potential applications for this new smart fabric including clothing that could detect the lights of an oncoming vehicle and keep pedestrians safe. There has also been interest from the US Department of Defence into incorporating it into military and policing uniforms. The first commercial products will reportedly be available in 2019, a radically quick progression from lab to market.

Website: www.web.mit.edu

Contact: www.web.mit.edu/contact

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