• United States

Smart fabric based on neural chip network

May 05, 20032 mins

Researchers at Germany’s Infineon Technologies have demonstrated how a self-organizing network of chips woven into large textile surfaces, such as carpets, could someday be used to monitor buildings, provide emergency direction services and more.

At the company’s Emerging Technology Lab in Munich, the research team showed how robust chips embedded into industrial fabrics in the form of a checkerboard are able to monitor temperature, pressure, vibration and motion, Infineon said Monday in a statement. The “intelligent” fabrics, for instance, could be used as a motion or fire detector.

In addition to their sensor function, such “intelligent” fabrics could also be equipped with tiny LEDs to provide directions through public buildings or to emergency exits, according to the Munich chip maker.

Another potential field of application for the new textile is the construction industry; textile with sensors wrapped around columns or covering walls or floors could be used as a means of detecting faults in concrete at an early stage, Infineon said.

The intelligent floor covering application follows Infineon’s “wearable electronics” textile development presented last year, the company said.

Here’s how it works: Each chip in the checkerboard design is connected to its four immediate chip neighbors by extremely fine, electrically conductive threads and exchanges information with them. The design forms a self-learning, fault-tolerant network. If, for instance, a chip or conductive path fails, the network automatically locates the fault and immediately reorganizes itself, finding a new path via the neighboring chips to maintain the information flow.

Another advantage: the fabric can be cut into virtually any shape and size without damaging the electronic network function.

Together with textile manufacturers, Infineon plans to produce a fully functional, intelligent material that can cover a wide area within two years, the company said.