A new type of fiber fabricated by a team of researchers can be converted into clothing that can sense the extent how much has been compressed or stretched. It then offers immediate tangible feedback on the fiber in the form of lateral stretch, pressure, or vibration to make the clothing.
Such fabrics could be used in clothing merchandise that help train athletes or singers for improved control of their breathing or that helps patients recover from disease or surgery to recover their breathing patterns, suggests the team.
Structurally, a fluid channel exists in the center of multilayered fibers contain. This configuration controls the geometry of fibers by pressurizing and discharging a fluid medium such as water or compressed air into the channel thereby allowing the fiber to act as an artificial muscle.
In addition, the fibers also comprise stretchable sensors that can identify and compute the extent the fiber is stretched. The composite fibers thus obtained are sleek and flexible enough to be woven, sewn, or knitted using commercially available standard equipment.
Dubbed OmniFibers, the fibers are being demonstrated at a conference.
Importantly, the architecture of the new fiber has several key features. It has an extremely narrow size and use of inexpensive material makes it relatively easy for structuring the fiber into a variety of fabric forms. The fiber is also compatible with the human skin as the outer layer of the fiber is based on a material similar to polyester.
Furthermore, the fast response time and strength and variety of forces that the fiber can impart allow for a rapid feedback system for training or remote communications using haptics.
Contrarily, currently existing artificial muscle fibers have shortcomings that they are thermally activated to cause overheating when used in contact with the human skin.