MIT Develops Method to Weave LED into Textile for Smart Clothes

A research team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has produced a fiber-based “soft hardware” with embedded LED and diode photodetectors which can be used to make clothes.


(Image: MIT)

The research was led by Yoel Fink with his team at MIT and an associated research institute, Advance Functional Fibers of America (AFFOA), with the finding result published in the journal Nature on August 8th.

Traditionally, optical fibers were produced by making a cylindrical object called a "preform," which is essentially a scaled-up model of the fiber. After being heated up, softened material can be drawn or pulled downward under tension and the resulting fiber is collected on a spool.

In this research, tiny LEDs were added to the preform to produce the fibers. When being heated during the fiber-drawing process, the preform partially liquefied, forming a long fiber with the diodes lined up along its center and connected by the copper wires.


(Image:MIT)

The completed fibers can then be made into fabrics and are waterproof. The team demonstrated a test by putting some of the LED and photodetectors embedded fibers into a water tank and transmitting optical signals to them outside the tank.The fibers in the tank converted the light pulses to electrical signals, which were then converted into music.

The cooperated institute AFFOA has developed ways to increasing yield, throughput, and overall reliability to make these fibers ready for industrial transitioning. The research head and the CEO of AFFOA, Yoel Fink, said“It is already allowing us to expand the fundamental capabilities of fabrics to encompass communications, lighting, physiological monitoring, and more. In the years ahead fabrics will deliver value-added services and will no longer just be selected for aesthetics and comfort.”

The first commercial products incorporating this technology are expected to enter the market in 2019, with potential applications in communication and biomedicine.

See full paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0390-x

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