Having trouble hearing? Just turn up your shirt. That’s the idea behind a new “acoustic fabric” developed by engineers at MIT and collaborators at Rhode Island School of Design. The team has designed a fabric that works like a microphone, converting sound first into mechanical vibrations, and then into electrical signals, similar to how your ears hear.
All fabrics vibrate in response to audible sounds, though these vibrations are on the scale of nanometers — far too small to ordinarily be sensed. To capture these imperceptible signals, the researchers created a flexible fiber that, when woven into a fabric, bends with it like seaweed on the ocean’s surface. The fiber is designed from a “piezoelectric” material that produces an electrical signal when bent or mechanically deformed, providing a means for the fabric to convert sound vibrations into electrical signals.
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