Imagine a fabric softer than your favorite old tee shirt. Instead of cotton, it is made with the finest nylon and spandex fibers coasted with silver giving in a metallic shine. This is not something from a sci-fi film.
A textile engineer, Asli Atalay and her team at Harvard has successfully designed the fabric of dreams. Sheildex is basically a soft, stretchable, motion detecting sensor that can be designed into whatever form of wearable you want. The possibilities are endless.
The silver coated fabric allows for electrons to conduct electricity. Atalay has engineered the fabric in such a way that it creates parallel plates that acts as a capacitor. The stretch of the fabric changes the capacitance, allowing sensors to detect this change. The capacitance is a direct measure of the amount of stretch in the fabric which makes them an ideal material for wearables.
A softer and stretchier fabric for wearable actually opens the possibility of a safer wear, preventing injuries and caters better to older users. Different types of sensors allows the fabric to be used for a range of possibilities from better grip to assistive exoskeletons.
The technology is not ready for a regular use yet, but there are huge chances of further advancements. May be in the near future we can achieve full on roboclothes.
A collaboration with NASA is in the works and that may open new vistas for Sheildex.