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A swathe of woven fabric could soon give pricey anti-burglary systems a run for their money. Don’t be fooled by its nondescript appearance, however. Developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Berlin, the material contains a fine lattice of conductive threads interspersed among the polyester fibers. When the fabric is cut or penetrated, a built-in microcontroller springs into action, triggering an alarm that alerts authorities to the precise location of the break-in. While the smart textile could provide useful coverage for home and office safes, precious artwork, or cargo in the back of a trailer or truck, IZM has its sights on a far loftier prize: protecting entire buildings.
“The fabric could be used to implement an entirely novel, invisible security system for buildings,” says IZM project manager Erik Simon. The textile, he suggests, could be applied to the rafters of a roof, integrated in concrete and blockwork walls, or used as a backing material for floor coverings in combination with pressure sensors, according to Simon, who lists jeweler’s shops, banks, and museums as prime candidates for the technology.
The smart fabric could provide entirely novel, invisible security system for buildings, says IZM.
Unlike current solutions on the market, which involve complex networks of optical fibers, IZM’s system is relatively inexpensive to produce. The process uses standard materials and components such as silver-coated conductive threads and a “simple but robust signal-evaluation system,” Simon says. A further advantage? The conductive thread can be integrated into the polyester substrate using an industry-standard textile-weaving process. The result is reams of material that can be trimmed to any length and customized for surfaces of any size.
To verify the fabric’s reliability and durability, especially with electrical contacts, IZM put the system through a series of grueling tests. First, it was beaten and tumbled in a washing machine at 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Next, it was exposed to the elements for 1,000 hours at a relative humidity of 85 percent and a temperature of 85 degrees. Finally, researchers placed it in a furnace, where it was subjected to 1,000 temperature cycles ranging from -40 to 85 degrees. The smart textile held up beautifully, Simon says, adding “it didn’t fail once.”
[Via Daily Mail]