A groundbreaking achievement in wearable technology has emerged from the labs of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), where scientists have developed ultra-thin semiconductor fibers that seamlessly integrate into fabrics, revolutionizing ordinary textiles into smart electronics.

The impetus for this breakthrough stemmed from the demand for flexible and defect-free materials crucial for stable signal transmission. Traditional manufacturing methods often resulted in stress-induced cracks and deformities, impeding performance and scalability. To overcome this challenge, NTU scientists conducted rigorous modeling and simulations to identify stress factors during manufacturing, leading to a meticulous selection of materials and production techniques.

Through a strategic combination of common semiconductor materials and synthetic counterparts, such as silicon semiconductor cores with silica glass tubes and germanium cores with aluminosilicate glass tubes, the research team achieved unprecedented success. These materials, chosen for their thermal stability, electrical conductivity, and optical compatibility, underwent precise manufacturing processes, resulting in hair-thin, defect-free fibers of remarkable length while retaining flexibility and functionality.

Laboratory tests revealed the exceptional performance of these semiconductor fibers, boasting responsivity across the entire visible light spectrum and robust signal transmission capabilities with a bandwidth of up to 350 kilohertz (kHz). Significantly, these fibers exhibited 30 times greater toughness than conventional counterparts, ensuring durability even after rigorous washability testing.

In practical applications, prototypes like smart shirts woven with semiconductor fibers served as wearable information hubs, providing real-time updates to wearers in museums or art galleries. Meanwhile, smartwatches featuring wristbands embedded with semiconductor fibers functioned as flexible sensors for monitoring heart rate during physical activities, offering superior comfort and reliability compared to traditional designs.

Dr. Li Dong, a Research Fellow involved in the project, emphasized the compatibility of their fiber fabrication method with existing textile industry machinery, facilitating large-scale production and widespread adoption of semiconductor fibers in wearable electronics.

Looking ahead, NTU researchers are exploring new materials and hollow core shapes to expand the applications of semiconductor fibers, aiming to create versatile solutions that address diverse societal needs and propel the evolution of wearable technology.

The development of ultra-thin semiconductor fibers marks a significant milestone in the realm of wearable electronics, epitomizing interdisciplinary collaboration and innovative engineering. NTU scientists have not only unlocked new possibilities for smart textiles but also laid the foundation for a more connected and responsive future.

By Impact Lab