Proving there's nothing wrong with looking good while fighting crime, new woven polyester fabrics containing a network of conductive threads connected to a built-in microcontroller will sound the alarm if cut or penetrated. The smart fabrics will not only alert authorities, but it can provide an exact location of the problem.
Developed by the Fraunhofer Institute in Berlin, the fabrics feature interwoven, silver-coated conductive threads that have an advantage over traditional burglar alarms, which rely on optical systems and sensors — these security curtains are less complex. The fabrics are fairly inexpensive, use standard materials and are based on a simple system of signal-evaluation.
Plus, the lattice of conductive threads and microprocessor are incorporated at low temperatures into the polyester substrate in an industry-standard weaving process. That means production of the fabric on a large scale, with reams that can be cut to any shape or size.
If holding up to industrial weaving looms wasn't enough proof, the Fraunhofer team wanted to prove these fabrics could take a serious beating. The material was put through a washing machine with a heat cycle of 104 degrees with ease. The team went further though, and exposed the smart fabrics to an intense 1,000 hours at 85 percent humidity and 85 degress. Incredibly, they also subjected it to temperature cycles that ranged from -40 to 85 degrees. The system held up without a hitch.
You're probably thinking this is unusually rigorous testing for a fabric that might hang in your living room. That's because the Fraunhofer teams see bigger potential for the fabric — weaving it into the structure of buildings to provide a "novel, invisible security system," according to Fraunhofer project manager Erik Simon.
Because the fabric is so simple, flexible and durable as an alarm, it could inexpensively be integrated into building materials from the roof to the walls and floor coverings and everything in between. That pretty much spells a burglars' nightmare.
While we know the fabric is sensitive and durable, what isn't clear is just how scalable the alarms are. Would a stiff breeze be mistaken for an intruder? How invasive would a breach in a fabric integrated building have to be before it an alarm sounds? Presumably the microcontroller can be set to different levels.
The report didn't provide details on when the prototype fabrics will be ready for consumer and industrial application. Perhaps that's all part of the subterfuge — burglars beware — you never know whether which floral chintz curtain will be the one to get you.