If you’re a burglar, and all that separates you from your quarry is what appears to be a simple sheet of fabric, you might not want to cut it. That’s because it could be a new smart fabric, that will set off an alarm if it’s breached. Created by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration, the fabric incorporates a web of silver-coated conductive threads that are connected to a microcontroller. If that controller detects a break in the weak electric current that travels through the fibers, it’ll be sure to let the right people know.
It has been suggested that the fabric could be used in tarps covering loads on trucks, or that it could even be laid in ceilings, walls, or under floors, like a vapor barrier. In those cases, it would likely be used in businesses such as banks, jewelers or museums. If it were used in a large building, one of its more interesting features would come into play – not only can the microcontroller detect if the fabric has been slit, but it can also determine where, down to the closest centimeter.
According to Fraunhofer, the smart fabric is significantly less expensive than other options. This is because it is made from “standard materials and components,” and the conductive thread can be woven into the polyester substrate using industry-standard textile-weaving equipment. The network of conductive threads is joined to the controller in a low-temperature process, commonly used in the semiconductor industry.
The fabric can be trimmed to any size prior to installation, as long as it’s no smaller than one square meter (10.76 sq ft). In lab tests, it has reportedly stood up to repeated machine washings, high humidity, and temperatures ranging from -40ºC (-40ºF) to 85ºC (185ºF).
It was developed in collaboration with the Technical University of Berlin and ETTLIN Spinnerei und Weberei Produktions.