Is That a Computer Chip in Your Carpet?
Researchers at Germany's Infineon Technologies have demonstrated how a self-organizing network of chips woven into large textile surfaces, such as carpets, could someday be used to monitor buildings, provide directions in an emergency, and more.
At the company's Emerging Technology Lab in Munich, the research team showed how robust chips embedded into industrial fabrics in the form of a checkerboard are able to monitor temperature, pressure, vibration, and motion, Infineon said Monday in a statement. The
Such fabrics could also be equipped with tiny light-emitting diodes to provide directions through public buildings or to emergency exits, according to the Munich chip maker.
The construction industry is another potential field of application for the new fabrics. Textiles with sensors wrapped around columns, or covering walls or floors, could offer a means of detecting faults in concrete at an early stage, Infineon said.
The intelligent floor covering application follows Infineon's "wearable electronics" textile development presented last year, the company said.
Here's how it works: Each chip in the checkerboard design is connected to its four immediate chip neighbors by extremely fine, electrically conductive threads, which allow the chip to exchange information with the others. The design forms a self-learning, fault-tolerant network. If, for instance, a chip or conductive path fails, the network automatically locates the fault and immediately reorganizes itself, finding a new path via the neighboring chips to maintain the information flow.
Another advantage of the design is that the fabric can be cut into virtually any shape or size without damaging the electronic network function.
Together with textile manufacturers, Infineon plans within two years to produce a fully functional, intelligent material that can cover a wide area, the company said.