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Fabricating a Multifunctional Fiber

• Katherine Bourzac via Technology Review
 Researchers at MIT have developed optical fibers that not only carry and modulate light, but also generate and sense pressure changes. The multifunctional fibers could be used to make various types of sensors. The fibers can also be squeezed in a way that modulates an optical signal, making them promising for "smart" textiles.

"We want to increase the level of complexity and sophistication of fibers," says Yoel Fink, professor of materials science and engineering at MIT.

By integrating heat- and light-sensitive materials during the manufacture of optical fibers, Fink's group has previously made fibers that act as simple sensors and even cameras. They've now added a new level of functionality to optical fibers by introducing a layer of piezoelectric material. This material converts electrical signals into a mechanical change, and vice versa, meaning pressure can be applied, or sensed, in the fiber.

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