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MIT researchers claim smart fibre breakthrough

A research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) claims that attempts to incorporate semiconductor devices into fibres and fabrics have been successful.

MIT professor of materials science and electrical engineering, Yoel Fink, and former graduate student Michael Rein have published a paper in the journal Nature highlighting work they carried out with a research team from MIT and other partners to embed high-speed optoelectronic semiconductor devices, including light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and diode photodetectors, in fibres.

One of the partners, South Carolina-based Inman Mills, was able to weave the fibres into “soft, washable fabrics” and making clothes that are communication systems a real possibility. According to the MIT team, incorporating semiconductor devices, the key ingredient of modern electronics, was “the missing piece” until now for making genuinely smart fabrics.

The breakthrough came when the team successfully added semiconductor diodes, connected by copper wire, to the fibre. Then, when they extruded yarn from the fibre, the connected diodes “lined up along its centre”. The electronic components survived the weaving process at Inman Mills and continued working after the fabrics had been laundered 10 times.

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