Chinese scientists develop 'smart fibers'

Updated: 2015-09-24 14:39


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BEIJING - Chinese scientists have developed new smart fibers that react after exposure to certain stimuli, giving possibility to smart clothes, automatic window shades and artificial limbs with the sensitivity of human muscles.

Ranging between a nanometer and micrometer in size, the fibers can be moved and controlled, capable of motion such as shifting clockwise or contracting, said Professor Peng Huisheng, who led the research team from Shanghai-based Fudan University.

Inspired by the movement mechanism in plants, the fibers can be manipulated using different liquids or solvents.

For example, fibers with strong contraction power can be used to help generate electricity. If woven, they can be turned into smart textiles. In the industrial sector, they can be made to react to certain gasses or chemicals, allowing smart cutting off valves in the case of a leak.

"The materials are promising in many applications in automated sensing and actuating," Peng said.

In the lab, the team developed a smart curtain sensitive to vapor that automatically closes when the indoor humidity is high. Another possibility is biomass power generators made with fibers sensitive to ethanol. When reacting to ethnaol contraction movement can help generate power.

The team's research was published in the latest version of Nature Nanotechnology.