Clothing is so yesterday. I mean, really, what can it do? It can’t pick up sound, or beep at us if something’s wrong. Or can it? M.I.T. researchers say they’ve developed a fiber that would allow clothing to eventually do those things. Their study is in the journal Nature Materials. [Shunji Egusa et al., http://bit.ly/cfOT6g]
A big key to the fiber is a plastic commonly used in microphones. Its particular molecular structure involves a lopsided arrangement of fluorine atoms on one side and hydrogen atoms on the other. That asymmetry makes the plastic piezoelectric: it changes shape when it encounters an electric field.
So any electric current will then cause the fibers to vibrate. The fibers could act as a microphone or a speaker, depending on whether the vibrations were being recorded or amplified.
The clothing mic could capture speech, sure. But it could also monitor health by detecting almost imperceptible sounds from the body. Sounds like blood flow, which could make a shirt a 24-hour blood-pressure monitor. So maybe someday, your clothes will say: “I detect a rise in blood pressure. Please sit down.”
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
[Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.]