MIT researchers, digital-first fiber has the ability to have created. It offers capabilities to detect, store, analyze and infer digital fiber activity. MIT professor Yoel Fink says digital fiber expands the possibilities for fabrics to reveal hidden patterns in the human body that could potentially be used for physical performance monitoring, medical inference, and early disease detection.
Until the MIT breakthrough, electronic fibers were analog and carried an electrical signal where bits of information could be encoded and processed within the fiber. The new study stands out as the first realization of a fabric capable of storing and processing data digitally. Fink underlines that the new fiber allows programming of fabrics.
To create a polymer fiber, the researchers placed hundreds of square silicon microscale digital chips into a preform and precisely controlled the polymer flow, creating a fiber that provides a continuous electrical connection between the chips for tens of meters. The resulting fiber is thin and flexible. It is also in a structure that can be passed through a needle to be sewn onto fabrics.
The digital fiber is said to be durable and can be washed at least 10 times without deteriorating. It is also possible to store data in the fiber. Researchers can write, store, and read information into the fiber, including 767 kilobits of full-color movie files and 0.48 megabytes of music files. Files can also be stored for up to 2 months without power. The new fiber also has potential for medical use, and was integrated into the armpit of a shirt during testing, allowing 270 minutes of surface body temperature data to be collected.
The fiber is controlled by a small external device. Therefore, the next step will be to design a new chip as a microcontroller that can be connected to the fiber itself.