Future Fabric

Imagine buying dinner with a wave of your arm!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

You tap your credit card at Chipotle, and BEEP! Burrito time! You just used near-field communication, or NFC. But this technology only works close up and relies on battery power.

Amirhossein Hajiaghajani and colleagues at the University of California, Irvine wanted to take it further.

They created sensors using flexible aluminum and copper coils. Sensors were attached to fabric like an iron-on patch. The coils communicate with NFC devices using magnetic induction, no batteries needed. Just pass them through a magnetic field – like a credit card reader – and BOOM! Signal sent!

Does the fashion tech work? It does – from several FEET away! The signals are lower in frequency, extending the range of existing NFC tech. Did I mention the material is WATER resistant?!

The fabric can be added to clothing with a simple heat press. With the right frequency tuning, this innovation could link your credit card to your shirt.

Next meal is on me … literally!

Reference: Hajiaghajani, A., Afandizadeh Zargari, A.H., Dautta, M., Jimenez, A., Kurdahi, F., & Tseng, P. (2021). Textile-integrated metamaterials for near-field multibody area networks. Nat Electron, 4, 808-817. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41928-021-00663-0