Skip to Content
Uncategorized

New Electronic Fiber Heralds Smarter Textiles

A soft, flexible fiber with a 1000 times more capacitance than a co-axial cable could lead to smarter textiles, say its inventors.

A long-standing dream of a certain cadre of computer specialists is to create smart textiles that can sense their environment, store, transmit and process information as well as harvest and store the energy necessary to do all this. A particular driver of this technology is the military which would very much like to remotely monitor the health and status of troops on the battlefield.

But creating truly smart textiles is easier said than done. One problem is that clothing generally has to be soft and flexible, something that chips, wires and sensors usually are not. A second problem is that most clothing is made from woven materials which must be made from soft flexible strands.

That’s not to say that some progress has not been made. For example, certain conducting polymers can be drawn into fibres and woven into a material to form a kind of wearable motherboard. It is then possible to fasten electronic components such as chips, sensors and batteries to this motherboard.

But that’s a fiddly, time-consuming process. One thing that could help is more useful fibres. And today Jian Feng Gu from Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal in Canada and couple of buddies reveal one that could help.

Their idea is to create a simple rolled capacitor from a sheet of conducting polymer sandwiched between two insulating sheets of low density polyethylene. They then roll this sandwich into a cylinder and encase it in high density polyethylene.

There’s nothing unusual about this kind of rolled capacitor. But what Gu and co do next is. They heat it and then extrude it through a tiny hole to form a fibre with a diameter of less than a millimetre.

If the conditions are just right, the plastics all stretch in exactly the same way so that the internal structure of the fibre is just a smaller version of the original.

And that’s exactly what happens. Gu and co say their fibre is soft and flexible and has a capacitance some 1000 times greater than an equivalent co-axial cable.

That could turn out to be handy. Gu and co say that the capacitor should be able to store energy harvested by other devices such as piezo-electric fibres that might also be woven into a textile. And by combining the capacitor with an inductor, it ought to possible to build all kinds of capacitor-inductor sensing circuits too.

Which means that this fibre or something like it could turn out to be an important component of smart textiles in future.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1006.5221: Soft Capacitor Fibers Using Conductive Polymers For Electronic Textiles

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Embracing CX in the metaverse

More than just meeting customers where they are, the metaverse offers opportunities to transform customer experience.

Identity protection is key to metaverse innovation

As immersive experiences in the metaverse become more sophisticated, so does the threat landscape.

The modern enterprise imaging and data value chain

For both patients and providers, intelligent, interoperable, and open workflow solutions will make all the difference.

Scientists have created synthetic mouse embryos with developed brains

The stem-cell-derived embryos could shed new light on the earliest stages of human pregnancy.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.