Towards Multimaterial Multifunctional Fibres That See, Hear, Sense and Communicate

Nat Mater. 2007 May;6(5):336-47. doi: 10.1038/nmat1889.


Virtually all electronic and optoelectronic devices necessitate a challenging assembly of conducting, semiconducting and insulating materials into specific geometries with low-scattering interfaces and microscopic feature dimensions. A variety of wafer-based processing approaches have been developed to address these requirements, which although successful are at the same time inherently restricted by the wafer size, its planar geometry and the complexity associated with sequential high-precision processing steps. In contrast, optical-fibre drawing from a macroscopic preformed rod is simpler and yields extended lengths of uniform fibres. Recently, a new family of fibres composed of conductors, semiconductors and insulators has emerged. These fibres share the basic device attributes of their traditional electronic and optoelectronic counterparts, yet are fabricated using conventional preform-based fibre-processing methods, yielding kilometres of functional fibre devices. Two complementary approaches towards realizing sophisticated functions are explored: on the single-fibre level, the integration of a multiplicity of functional components into one fibre, and on the multiple-fibre level, the assembly of large-scale two- and three-dimensional geometric constructs made of many fibres. When applied together these two approaches pave the way to multifunctional fabric systems.