MIT manufactures the first fabrics that “eavesdrop”

MIT manufactures the first fabrics that "eavesdrop"
© Shutterstock MIT manufactures the first fabrics that “eavesdrop”

Thanks to the special fibers, this fabric effectively detects the sounds of the environment, from the loud ones on a busy road, to the quiet sounds inside a library reading room.

At the same time, the fabric is also capable of recording the sounds it hears and then reproducing them in the form of acoustic vibrations, which can now be heard by a second acoustic fabric. In this way, two such fabrics can communicate with each other.

The function of the invention is inspired by the complex system of hearing in the human ear. These fabrics have the possibility of two-way communication and multiple practical applications, e.g. in the field of security / espionage and biomedicine, for example listening to a “target”, or monitoring a person’s heartbeat.

The researchers —whose study was published in the journal “Nature”reported that the new flexible fabric that “listens” works like a sensitive microphone. The technology is based on the complex structure of the ear, in which sound waves are converted by the eardrum membrane into mechanical vibrations and then travel to the cochlea, where they are converted into electrical signals.

A single thin fiber, up to 40 meters long, embedded in the fabric is capable of creating tens of square meters of “fabric” microphone, capable of detecting weak acoustic signals, such as slow human speech. The fabric can be washed in the washing machine, which gives it an extra bonus for practical applications.

“By wearing such a acoustic clothing, one can answer phone calls and communicate with other people. In addition, the fabric can be in direct contact with human skin, allowing anyone who wears it to monitor their heart and respiratory status, in a comfortable and continuous manner, in real time”,

said lead researcher Wei Yan.

The research teamfunded by the U.S. Army Research Bureau because, of the study’s potential military applications— also included Greek-American physics professor John Ioannopoulos, director —since 2006— of the MIT Institute of Military Nanotechnology.

With information from news.mit.edu

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