A team of international researchers led by Cornell fiber scientist Juan Hinestroza have successfully created transistors from cotton fibers that remain flexible enough to be woven into fabrics, leading the way for garments that could one day be more capable than your phone.
The technique they created, which was published back in September, involves coating natural cotton fibers with gold nanoparticles and semiconductive or conductive polymers, giving them electronic properties and behaviors. But the additional layers were so thin the fibers were still flexible, allowing the researchers to then turn them into functioning transistors. And from there, maybe even computers that look like they were knit by your grandmother.
Cotton was originally chosen for the research because of its mechanical properties which make it strong and easy to work with, but also because it's relatively cheap, widespread, and most importantly, comfortable. The researchers envision their new soft transistors eventually being woven into fabrics and made into smart garments and wearable electronic devices. You can already buy heavily engineered athletic wear designed to keep you cool, but imagine a shirt that could monitor and actively cool or warm your body temperature and keep track of your vital health stats like heart rate and blood pressure. I like the idea of clothing that does more than just hide my naked splendor, as long as it doesn't require daily chargings or constant firmware updates. [Cornell via Engadget]