March 22, 2022

This Shirt Won’t Break Your Heart, But It Will Listen to It

Some people wear their heart on their sleeve, and researchers have now made it possible to hear it, thanks to a special material.

The brains at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, developed the “acoustic fabric” with some help from researchers at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Lead author Wei Yan, formerly of MIT and now a professor at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, says the electrical fabric can be woven into a shirt’s lining.

Then, acting like a microphone, the “piezoelectric” material amplifies the sound of your heart when bent, converting it into the same wave of energy that human ears can pick up: first into a mechanical vibration, and then as electrical signals.

Aside from real-time monitoring of heart and respiratory functions, Yan claims it is possible for the fabric to allow you to “talk through it to answer phone calls and communicate with others.”

Other ideas include woven maternity wear to monitor a baby’s foetal heartbeat, or made into a “smart” net to better track fish in the ocean.

The technological marvel is still in development but according to Yan, the fibre is “opening widespread opportunities.”