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Monday, July 12, 2010

MIT's New Multifunctional Fibers Combine Piezoelectric Sensitivity with Heat and Light Sensing

A New Multifunctional Material MIT's multilayered optical fibers can also sense and produce pressure or acoustic waves. Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT/Greg Hren Photograph

Mashing together optical fiber technology and piezoelectrics, MIT scientists have developed a new kind of multifunctional material that can not only carry and modulate light, but can sense or create pressure changes in the material, layering additional sophistication onto already complex materials. The fibers could be used to create smart textiles that monitor the body, structural sensors that detect even the smallest stresses on a structure, or biomedical devices that could be tucked into the tightest corners of the human body.

The MIT team, headed by professor of materials science and engineering Yoel Fink, has previously cobbled together heat sensitive and light sensitive materials, but adding piezoelectric functionality to these fibers adds a whole new dimension, giving materials the ability to convert mechanical changes in shape to electrical signals and vice versa.