MIT researchers develop fibers that carry data and detect environment

functional fibersThe latest revelation divulged by MIT researchers may give man-made fibers more meaning than just being associated with ropes and garments. Yoel Fink, professor of materials science at MIT’s Research Lab of Electronics and his colleagues has now formulated that functional fibers can interact with the environment.

According to the researchers, fibers can detect and produce sound which could be used for monitoring bodily functions as well as capturing speech. It would also turn clothes into sensitive microphones or have tiny filaments that would aid in measuring the pressure in the brain or blood flow in capillaries.

“You can actually hear them, these fibers,” explained Chocat, a graduate student in the materials science department. “If you connected them to a power supply and applied a sinusoidal current then it would vibrate. And if you make it vibrate at audible frequencies and put it close to your ear, you could actually hear different notes or sounds coming out of it.”

Unlike ordinary optical fibers, the newly developed ones includes an elaborate geometrical arrangement made up of various materials which helps the fibers get through the heating and drawing process without any damage. The new acoustic fibers are fashioned from conducting plastic found in microphones and can change shape when introduced to an electric field thanks to its asymmetrical molecules.

Once these special fibers are drawn out, the researchers then must align all the piezoelectric molecules in one direction with the help of a powerful electric field. If at any place the fiber is too narrow, a tiny lightning bolt would be generated and the material ultimately destroyed. The specially fashioned fibers can also be utilized with loose nets to monitor the water flow in the ocean and sonar imaging systems with high resolutions.

The researchers are now looking at merging the experimental fibers properties into one single fiber with the use of strong vibrations.