I hate to shop. I especially dislike it during the holidays. But if any store at the mall had a sale on these new e-textiles, I might consider going. This electronic cloth, interwoven with microelectronics, serves as a large detection array that pinpoints sources of faint sounds. Co-investigators Robert Parker and Mark Jones at the University of Southern California School of Engineering's Information Sciences Institute in Los Angeles, CA, embedded arrays of small, standalone detectors into fabrics that communicate with each other by wires. Existing prototype fabrics have discrete electronics attached after the normal weaving process, says Parker. But the goal is to eventually produce individual yarns that provide an electronic function such as a battery power source or a transistor array; a sensor of environmental conditions such as temperature or airborne toxins; or an actuator such as a synthetic muscle. In the immediate future, Parker expects these fabrics to be sewn into parachutes or tents for the military where they could be used for surveillance missions or to detect distant vehicles moving on battlefields. "These yarns are conceived to be very thin and flexible and able to be woven into the cloth on a loom in a standard high-volume cloth manufacturing process," says Parker. The type of fabric chosen would be determined by its final use and could vary from cottons for shirts to heavy canvas or Kevlar for heavy-duty military applications. "Although early work focuses on acoustic sensing, think of future wearable fabrics with integrated cell phones, navigation systems, or personal warning systems," says Parker. "Think of your shirt or slacks 'interacting' with the environment as you pass through it. Think of walking into a mall and your shirt tells you where you can get that special gift item that has been on your 'must get' list for months." Now that may be enough to even get me into the malls! For more information, contact: Robert Parker by FAX at (703) 812-3712 or e-mail: email@example.com.
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