Single fibre enables acoustic fabrics via nanometre-scale vibrations

Yan, W., Noel, G., Loke, G., Meiklejohn, E., Khiduyev, T., Marion, J., Rui, G., Lin, J., Cherston, J., Saharasbudhe, A., Wilbert, J., Wicaksono, I., Hoyt, R.W., Missakian, A., Zhu, L., Ma, C., Joannopoulos, J., and Fink, Y. Single fibre enables acoustic fabrics via nanometre-scale vibrations. Nature (2022).


Fabrics, by virtue of their composition and structure, have traditionally been used as acoustic absorbers 1,2. Here, inspired by the auditory system 3, we introduce a fabric that operates as a sensitive audible microphone while retaining the traditional qualities of fabrics, such as machine washability and draping. The fabric medium is composed of high-Young’s modulus textile yarns in the weft of a cotton warp, converting tenuous 10−7-atmosphere pressure waves at audible frequencies into lower-order mechanical vibration modes. Woven into the fabric is a thermally drawn composite piezoelectric fibre that conforms to the fabric and converts the mechanical vibrations into electrical signals. Key to the fibre sensitivity is an elastomeric cladding that concentrates the mechanical stress in a piezocomposite layer with a high piezoelectric charge coefficient of approximately 46 picocoulombs per newton, a result of the thermal drawing process. Concurrent measurements of electric output and spatial vibration patterns in response to audible acoustic excitation reveal that fabric vibrational modes with nanometre amplitude displacement are the source of the electrical output of the fibre. With the fibre subsuming less than 0.1% of the fabric by volume, a single fibre draw enables tens of square metres of fabric microphone. Three different applications exemplify the usefulness of this study: a woven shirt with dual acoustic fibres measures the precise direction of an acoustic impulse, bidirectional communications are established between two fabrics working as sound emitters and receivers, and a shirt auscultates cardiac sound signals.

Related Content