A team of specialists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed a special fiber capable of collecting, storing and processing all kinds of data. It is expected that it can be used to create a new generation of tissues – with the ability to program them.
According to one of the main authors of the study, Yoel Fink, “digital” fibers extend the capabilities of tissues, potentially allowing detection of hidden “behavioral patterns” of the human body. Thanks to this, real-time monitoring of human activity and early disease diagnosis can be provided. But this is not the only application of the technology.
According to Fink and his colleagues, electronic fibers have been created before, but they were “analog,” literally storing an electrical signal. Now they are capable of storing information in the form of zeros and ones, traditional for the modern digital era.
The fiber contains hundreds of square microscopic chips, combined in a single polymer thread with a series of elements – tens of meters long. The thread itself can be easily passed through the needle, and the fabric made on its basis is resistant to at least ten washes without losing its useful qualities. The fabric is indistinguishable from ordinary fabrics to the touch. Moreover, scientists have found a way to activate any of the hidden chips without triggering the others.
Additionally, the filament is capable of storing any digital content – it has already managed to record music and short video clips that can be stored in the fibers’ memory for two months without power supply.
The technology will also serve in artificial intelligence applications, literally combining the chips into a common neural network, which scientists used to record body temperature data from a test “digital sleeve. Subsequent analysis allowed a 96% probability of determining what a person in smart clothes was doing. Whole body information will be used for machine learning. MIT believes that one day the smart fabric will be able to sense a threat and warn the wearer in time about lung problems or, for example, arrhythmia.
The fiber is controlled by a small external device, but the next step is to embed the corresponding microcontroller directly into the filament itself.
It is noteworthy that the research already has a targeted application. It is supported by several U.S. military departments.