This liquid crystal fabric is ‘smart’ enough to adapt to the weather

By Andrew Paul

Have you ever left the house without a jacket on a balmy day, only to regret overestimating your chilly weather tolerance? Instead of dashing back home for your coat, there may come a time in the near future when you simply use an app to control your clothing’s level of insulation.

Created by researchers at MIT, FibeRobo is a cheap, programmable, shape-changing smart fiber reliant on a liquid crystal elastomer (LCE). Among their many uses, garments imbued with their new LCE fiber could adjust their structure to become more insulated in colder temperatures, and vice versa for warmer weather. With an additional ability to combine with electrically conductive threads, a wearer could directly control their FibeRobo clothing or medical wearables like compression garments via wireless inputs from a controller or smartphone.

As detailed in a recent institute profile, LCEs are composed of molecules possessing liquid-like properties that can also arrange into periodic crystal formations once cool and inert. Importantly, the team’s new synthetic LCE can morph between its phases at safe, comfortable temperature levels—an industry first.

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