Infineon presents concept for "smart" industrial textiles - far-reaching fields of application for electronics integrated into textiles
As a proof-of-concept, Infineon created a small section of smart carpet. This carpet appears just like conventional fitted carpet; all of the microcontroller and sensor functions are arranged beneath the fiber surface. Depending on the particular requirements, the distance between the microcontrollers can be freely defined.
The demonstrator developed by Infineon incorporates robust encapsulated integrated capacitive sensors that act as touch detectors and LEDs as display elements. A carpet equipped with these chips and with this electronic architecture could thus be used as a motion or fire detector. The more densely the sensor elements are arranged, the more precise the results of measurement. At the same time, the integrated LEDs support use of the high-tech carpet as a control system that can be used in public buildings to mark walking routes and control the flow of visitors or to mark escape routes in an emergency.
In order to evaluate the information supplied by the microcontrollers, individually adapted programs can be written. Thanks to this flexible solution, the possible fields of application are virtually limitless.
The chips are interconnected by means of extremely fine signal and data conductors that are woven into a braided material that acts as the carrier. This interconnecting woven material can be the base layer or an intermediate layer of a carpet or of any other textile material. Each chip communicates via a self-learning and self-organizing network with its immediate neighbour and uses a software algorithm to ascertain its own position. If an element within the network is faulty, the chips automatically search for new ways in order to maintain the communication. Since the coordinates are stored in the chip and the entire carpet network is self-organizing, a faulty semiconductor element or a damaged connection does not impair the networks ability to function. The self-organizing nature of the material allows it to be cut to size in order to fit a specific area or a desired shape. Once it is cut and installed, the information network is connected via a data interface to existing systems, such as the alarm, air-conditioning or IT system.
To use these textiles in practice, you only need a power and data connection, explained Dr. Werner Weber, senior director of the Emerging Technologies division at Infineon. "This innovative technology for integrating microelectronics into textile surfaces is to be further developed in conjunction with cooperation partners from the textile industry within two years to produce a fully functional and intelligent woven material that could be used to cover a wide area.
Another potential field of application for the new high-tech textiles is the building industry, where sensors could be used as a means of detecting faults in concrete at an early stage. The water and heat-resistant chips could be integrated into columns, floors and walls, where they could collate information about the condition of the building material. Information gathered in this way could then be evaluated by means of a laptop computer connected to an interface of the concrete carrier. This would also allow static investigations to be performed faster and more cost-efficiently.
Application in the field of advertising and information is also conceivable for the concepts of intelligent textiles developed by Infineon. By way of example, when integrated into tent roofs or Zeppelin (airship) and balloon covers, the controllable LEDs as well as other display elements could be used to convey advertising messages.
Infineon Technologies AG, Munich, Germany, offers semiconductor and system solutions for the automotive and industrial sectors, for applications in the wired communications markets, secure mobile solutions as well as memory products. With a global presence, Infineon operates in the US from San Jose, CA, in the Asia-Pacific region from Singapore and in Japan from Tokyo. In fiscal year 2002 (ending September), the company achieved sales of Euro 5.21 billion with about 30,400 employees worldwide. Infineon is listed on the DAX index of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and on the New York Stock Exchange (ticker symbol: IFX). Further information is available at www.infineon.com.
Researchers from Infineon Technologies AG have discovered a way to make large textile surfaces such as carpeting or tent cloth "intelligent". This sets new highlights for the monitoring of buildings, the structural control of buildings of all kinds and for use in the advertising industry. Woven into fabrics, a self-organizing network of robust chips is able to monitor temperatures, pressures or vibrations as required.Intelligent Carpet
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