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E-fiber just got smarter

Swatches | September 1, 2021 | By:

MIT researchers have created the first fabric fiber with digital capabilities, ready to collect, store and analyze data using a neural network. “This work presents the first realization of a fabric with the ability to store and process data, adding a new information content dimension to textiles and allowing fabrics to be programmed literally,” says Yoel Fink, senior author on the study. Photos: Anna Gitelson-Kahn/Roni Cnaani.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harrisburg University and Rhode Island School of Design have created a fiber with digital capabilities that can sense, store, analyze and infer activity. The fiber contains memory, temperature sensors and a trained neural network program, according to an MIT news service report. Until now, electronic fibers have been analog, carrying a continuous electrical signal, rather than digital, where discrete bits of information can be encoded and processed in 0s and 1s. The fiber itself is thin and flexible and can be passed through a needle, sewn into fabrics and washed at least 10 times without breaking down. According to MIT Ph.D. student Gabriel Loke, a lead author on the paper, “When you put it into a shirt, you can’t feel it at all. You wouldn’t know it was there.” Yoel Fink, senior author on the study, says digital fibers expand the possibilities for physical performance monitoring, medical inference and early disease detection. 

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