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Elastic fibers change smart clothes

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EPFL scientists have developed super-elastic, high performance and multi-material fibers. The scientists at EPFL lab and FIMAP discovered an easy and fast method for embedding different kinds of microstructures in super elastic fibers. For example, by adding electrodes at strategic locations, fibers turned into ultra-sensitive sensors.|

The University explains, “It’s a whole new way of thinking about sensors. The tiny fibers developed at EPFL are made of elastomer and can incorporate materials like electrodes and nano-composite polymers. The fibers can detect even the slightest pressure and strain and can withstand deformation of close to 500% before recovering their initial shape and all that makes them perfect for applications in smart clothing and prostheses, and for creating artificial nerves for robots.”

Heat stretch manufacturing
For manufacturing of these fibers, scientists used the ther5mal drawing process. They created a macroscopic preform with various fiber components arranged in 3D designed patterns. Then they stretched the preform by heating it to make fibers of a few hundred microns in diameter. Simultaneously, the patterns also stretched out lengthwise and also contracted crosswise while the components relative position stayed same. The end result was complicated microarchitecture and advance properties fibers.

Artificial nerves for robots
Scientists at Technical university of Berlin integrated fibers into robotic fingers as artificial nerves. When the fingers touch something, the electrodes in the fibers transmit information regarding the robot’s tactile interactions with its environment. The technology can be further used to develop touch keyboard that is integrated directly into clothing.