Material gains for cameras, electronics in fabrics

Pitching legend Satchel Paige once said "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you." Well, here's something for the truly paranoid: clothes whose fibers contain cameras to see what's coming from all directions. by John Dodge

Pitching legend Satchel Paige once said "Don't look back.  Something might be gaining on you." Well, here's something for the truly paranoid: clothes whose fibers contain cameras to see what's coming from all directions.

Researchers at MIT using nano-materials have created what amounts to layers of unfathomably small "light-detecting" semiconductors on strands of fabric under 1 millimeter in diameter. The upshot is "optical fiber webs" whose layers start with four pairs of interconnected rings, each composed of "semiconductor material" and "100 billioneths of a meter across." Welcome to the nano world.

Such a fiber mesh recently illuminated a smiley face and created a "distinct pattern" that was sent to a computer whose algorithms took over to produce a black and white image.

There's no place for a smiley face to hide!

“We are saying, ‘instead of a tiny, sensitive object [for capturing images], let’s construct a large, distributed system,’” Yoel Fink said in an MIT press release. He is an associate professor in MIT's Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering. His team's findings were published in the June 15 in NANO Letters from the American Chemical Society.

Photo-taking fibers. Credit: MIT

The first application could be for soldiers whose safety would be enhanced by seeing threats coming in from the blind sides and rear. Indeed, much of the funding for this research is coming from defense agencies.  Even though developments like this result often fail to produce something in the field or whose fruits will be reaped far into the future, I take comfort knowing such research is being conducted here in the U.S. It makes me feel safer in a unsafe world. Satchel would be proud!

In a seemingly-related materials announcement from MIT, researchers have  developed a model that helps pave the way for "stretchable electronics" in fabrics. The model minimizes the damage to electronics from twisting material. The centerpiece of the research was studying blisters that result on stickers affixed to windows.

By the wa y, Satchel Paige had much sage advice. My favorite? "Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it don't matter."

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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