Harvard’s transforming robotic fabric could lead to therapeutic wearables

To eliminate the need for an external machine, they weaved electronically-conductive silver-plated threads into the material they used for the STATs. The threads serve as the smart fabric’s heater and sensor elements, enabling the temperature and pressure changes needed to switch Novec 7000’s phase from liquid to vapor and vice versa. The study’s co-first author, Christopher Payne, explained:

“With an integrated ‘closed-loop feedback’ controller, STATs autonomously maintained their pressure even when placed into environments in which the exterior temperature fluctuates, like close to an air tube that actively cools the system.”

The researchers said they can manufacture the fabric in bulk and with arbitrary geometries, giving it a wide number of potential applications. It could be used in mechanotherapeutic wearables that could apply pressure on injuries and accelerate tissue repair, for instance. It could also be used in responsive cushions to help prevent bed and wheelchair sores, and perhaps even in the creation of dynamic garments for avant-garde fashion shows.

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