From MIT comes the first programmable digital fiber

MIT researchers made the first programmable digital fiber . The fiber is able to collect data and analyze it, in order to study the physical activity of the wearer. Thanks to the sensors, these digital filaments are able to perceive heart rate, sweating and temperature, saving the collected data in memory and analyzing them via neural networks. The novelty of fiber lies in being digital , as opposed to previous electronic fibers . This means that you can now encode the data and program the filament to wear, as if it were a modern wearable device.

MIT introduces programmable digital fiber

Leading the research is Yoel Fink, a professor in MIT's department of materials science and electronic engineering. As we read in the report published in Nature Communications , the digital fiber opens the way to new ways of monitoring the human body , more and more precise. The preferred area of ​​use would be the medical one, in which fiber would be used to, for example, identify various diseases early and establish a suitable action plan. The fabric is in fact able to identify hidden patterns by analyzing the collected data.

The fiber was made with hundreds ofsilicon chips , inserted into a preform used to create the polymer fiber. By controlling the flow of polymers, the researchers created a fiber with a continuous electrical connection, tens of meters long. Having a uniform and continuous connectivity allows to reduce the number of discrete connections, and therefore decrease the vulnerability of the system.

Example image of the programmable digital fiber produced by MIT. Credits: Yoel Fink, MIT
Example image of the programmable digital fiber produced by MIT. Credits: Yoel Fink, MIT

To test the fiber, the researchers made several people wear the fabric for several days while engaging in various physical activities. In total, each volunteer provided data for 4 and a half hours. Fiber managed to classify the type of physical activity with an accuracy of 96% . The tissue uses a neural network made up of 1650 connections, trained on data relating to the correlation of body temperature – time – type of activity. Starting from the data relating to the first two metrics, the system was able to infer the motor activity performed.

Programmable fiber: the possible uses

In addition to the detection of diseases and pathologies, programmable fiber also appears useful for other applications . These include, for example, the development of increasingly precise neural interfaces and the identification of drug carriers. Among the most particular uses it is worth mentioning the storage of films and musical passages in the fiber. In the case of films, the film was divided into 8 frames and then the RGB values ​​for each pixel in the frame were extracted. These values, stored in the form of a list, can then be read again to reconstruct the frames. The music files were treated in a similar way: processed in 16-bit values ​​and sampled with a frequency of 4000 Hz, they can then be read by the fiber, reconstructing the original piece. This means that you can literally wear a movie or a song , take it with you and play it whenever you want (or almost).

The fiber is capable of storing even the frames of a film.
The fiber is capable of storing even the frames of a film.

But can the fiber be washed? Of course, the researchers also carried out washing tests to measure how resistant the fabric was. The fibers underwent 10 washes before breaking , with a water temperature of 45 degrees, no detergent and a 15 minute wash cycle. Will these be the clothes we will wear in the near future? To have supported the research we also find several army bodies, so it is reasonable to think that among the uses of the fiber there will also be military ones. At the moment the activity of the fiber is controlled by an external device, but the researchers are already thinking of introducing an internal microcontroller , which can be integrated directly into the fabric.

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