- The Washington Times
Monday, February 18, 2013

See that person dressed in battle fatigues and muttering into his camouflage jacket? He may not be crazy — he could be communicating.

Scientists with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are fine-tuning a fiber invention that could soon see soldiers speaking to each other — by speaking into their field jackets.

Wired magazine reports the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, a joint Army-MIT research venture, is trying to incorporate a fiber optic-like gold thread in the Army’s Combat Uniform to enable soldiers to detect light, heat and sound.

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But the fibers would be more than simple transistors. They would be entirely new communication devices, in and of themselves.

“These are new kinds of fibers that are themselves devices,” said John Joannopoulos, director of the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, a joint Army-MIT research venture, according to Wired.

Researchers still have a ways to go.

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The fibers, right now roughly a millimeter in diameter, are still too thick to sew into a uniform, Mr. Joannopoulos told Wired.

But paring down the width, and refining the concept, could lead to great strides on the battlefield.

One practical use: Soldiers could shine lasers on the uniforms of soldiers they don’t know. If those soldiers are wearing U.S. uniforms, the microfibers would sense the heat of the laser and send a message back, Wired reports.

“Your uniform would transit that information. You wouldn’t be talking, it would transmit information: who you are, what time you went down, where the wounds are, what is the estimated severity of the wound, et cetera,” Mr. Joannopoulos said, in the Wired report. “The idea with these fibers is that eventually, we’d like to enable full-body sensing for the soldier.”

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