This post is also available in: heעברית (Hebrew)

A team of engineers recently developed a type of conductive fiber that can be woven into clothes to give them the capabilities of smart devices, as was published in “Nature.”

Experts have been foretelling the arrival of smart clothes for several years, but despite technological advances, no such technology has become mainstream – but this research team claims to have created a fiber that could overcome the problems that have hindered researchers until now.

According to Techxplore, the main challenge when making smart clothes is managing to create a bendable, stretchable fiber that remains conductive and able to withstand years of use and wash cycles. This research team overcame these challenges by developing a novel process for making a fiber that suits these needs. The team first tried finding the problems with current semiconductor-based fibers designed for use in fabrics. They then looked at other technologies to learn how to make glass that does not crack under pressure. They then created and tested a variety of fibers until finding ones that met the requirements.

They reportedly created a semiconducting wire using silicon and covered it with melted glass as it was pulled into a strand. The glass was then etched away and the wire was covered with a stretchable and bendable polymer coating. Testing showed that the resulting fiber could be stretched and bent in ways suitable for clothing. It apparently could also be woven into existing fabrics while maintaining its conductive abilities.

The researchers created several products using their fiber, including a hat with the ability to sense traffic light colors and a wrist strap that monitors a wearer’s heart rate. More importantly, they found that the test products continued to work even after six months of use and washing.

Nevertheless, one big problem remains—the link between the embedded fibers and the circuit board is less durable and has been found to fail after just a few months.