Questions for ‘This new fabric can ‘hear’ sounds or broadcast them’ 

image of experimental fabric made of woven blue, green and red thread

This new fabric can capture sounds from the environment. Able to hear sounds, such materials could provide a comfy — and perhaps trendy — way to monitor body functions or aid with hearing.

Fink Lab/MIT, Elizabeth Meiklejohn/RISD

To accompany This new fabric can ‘hear’ sounds or broadcast them’  


Before Reading:

  1. Beethoven was an artistic genius who continued to compose music throughout his life. But his hearing failed. By age 30 he was mostly deaf. One myth claims that after losing his hearing, Beethoven sawed the legs off his piano, placed his ear to the floor, and continued composing music while banging the piano keys. This story is probably not true. But he is believed to have composed music by holding a pencil in his mouth to touch the instrument as he played. How might this pencil technique, or even the myth of the sawed-off piano legs, allow Beethoven to feel music notes he could not hear? What purpose might the pencil serve? What exactly might Beethoven have been sensing?
  2. Consider the many uses of fabric in day-to-day life. What are some sound-related uses for fabric? Do you think fabric has more applications to amplify sound levels or to diminish them?

During Reading:

  1. Into what kind of signal does the newly described fabric change acoustic signals?
  2. Fabric has long been used to muffle sounds, Wei Yan notes. He claims his new application for fabric is a “totally a different concept.” How so?
  3. Which body part inspired this new research? 
  4. What are piezoelectric materials? 
  5. People who have explored piezoelectric materials in the past have encountered what obstacle? How have the scientists in this study overcome that obstacle in developing their new fabric? 
  6. What did the team successfully measure about the wearer of a shirt that had been woven from the new fabric?
  7. How could the shirt’s two fibers figure out which direction the sound of a clap had come from?

After Reading:

  1. Imagine you’re writing a sci-fi book about a spy. Your spy relies upon a futuristic invention made from the new fabric described in this article. Design this spy’s invention. Describe or sketch this invention’s appearance. How does the invention work? How does this invention help your story’s spy?
  2. Most animals have two eyes, not just one. One reason for that is that to perceive depth, they need at least a pair of eyes. Why would that be? Explain why depth perception requires two eyes. Do a quick internet search if necessary. Next, review the article section describing how the shirt uses sound-sensing fibers to pinpoint a sound’s direction. Why were two sound-sensing fibers needed? In what way are the two eyes an animal needs for depth perception similar to the two fibers needed for the shirt to perceive a the direction of a sound’s source?