By Jennifer Chu
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, then into electrical signals, similarly to how our 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 the fabric like seaweed on the ocean’s surface.