EPFL researchers from the Photonic Materials and Fiber Equipment Laboratory have developed a new technique that can be used to detect body movements. The breakthrough could lead to clothing or sheets that can monitor breathing and other important movements, the researchers said. The electronic fibers can also be used to make robots more safe and intuitive to interact with humans.
The researchers say the soft transmission lines they have developed open the door to these possibilities. These sensors can track the deformation of a variety of fabrics at the same time, such as stretching, pressure and torque. The team says sensors have difficulty measuring multiple stimuli at the same time, and the team incorporates the concept of reflection measurement to create a soft-fibre-shaped sensor that opens the door to smart textiles.
The researchers say the technology works like radar, but emits electrical impulses rather than electromagnetic waves. These fibers work like a transmission line, and the system measures the time between when a signal is sent and the signal is received. This difference determines the exact location, type, and intensity of the deformation.
The researchers say this special detection technique has never been used before in structures that combine extended mechanical flexibility with high electronic performance. The team says their trick is to create transmission lines made entirely of soft material stoically in a simple way, using a scalable ability. The next step will be to make the technology more portable by reducing the footprint of peripheral electronic components.