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July 12th, 2010

Fabricating a Multifunctional Fiber

Abstract:
Researchers at MIT have developed optical fibers that not only carry and modulate light, but also generate and sense pressure changes. The multifunctional fibers could be used to make various types of sensors. The fibers can also be squeezed in a way that modulates an optical signal, making them promising for "smart" textiles.

The key to the approach is selecting materials that not only have the desired properties but that also melt and flow at the same temperature. For the piezoelectric fibers, Fink makes a preform that is 40 millimeters in diameter. It contains a polymer that forms a high-quality piezoelectric crystal as it cools down, and a polycarbonate material that is both viscous and conductive. When heated and stretched, the dimensions of these layers shrink from millimeters to nanometers, while maintaining the same ratio of thicknesses. The new fibers could be especially useful for distributed sensing and imaging because they're so thin, flexible, and lightweight.

Source:
technologyreview.com

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