The secret life of fashion MEMS – through biomolecules into the blockchain. MEMS is one of the most promising technologies of the 21st Century. The ‘micro-electromechanical systems’ technology consist of silicon-based microelectronics merged – at a nanotech scale – with micromachining technology. These ‘microsensors’ have powerful commercial applications that are revolutionising consumer and industrial products.
So far, MEMS technology has seen great success in environmental sensing contexts as these microscopic devices are used to detect the tiniest changes in the surrounding environment by measuring thermal, magnetic, mechanical, chemical, electromagnetic, and many more variations.
In simple terms, MEMS are found in their millions in the devices we all use every day such as cars, smartphones as gyroscopes, pressure sensors, microphones, accelerometers, magnetic field sensors, strain gauges, air mass flow, yaw-rate and radiation sensors, and the list can go on.
Fashion MEMS – Blockchain Micropayments
If initially, the development of MEMS took off to meet the growing needs of the automotive industry, MEMS research and development sees new heights powered by a new demand from the medical industry. MEMS’s extensive analytical capabilities have made them critical tools in the chemical sensing context.
In the fashion industry, a new wave of fashion tech designers demand ‘lab-on-a-chip’ sensors with improved analytical speed, waterproof, flexible, with better efficiency, and lower costs to manufacture. MEMS are becoming a critical element in the’fashion innovation’ movement, as indispensable tools for designers and brands looking to create at the intersection of fashion with technology.
Embedded MEMS in the garments of tomorrow will allow the wearers not only to gain access to an extensive range of measurements relating to own personal biometrics but also give them the ability to receive micropayments on the blockchain. Payments for user generated data such as web traffic, devices usage, body movement, social media engagement, types of consumption and overall, the emotional responses correlated with the chemical changes for each of the above mentioned activities. Every bit of data we produce has a price.
Fashion MEMS – Biomolecules and Silicone
But to gather consumers’ data at such granular levels BioMEMS are required. Biological micro-electromechanical systems have become one of the most exciting fields of research in biomedical and health sciences with the aim to incorporate biological sensing materials into MEMS.
However, one of the problems facing BioMEMS technology is that silicon does not combine well with biomolecules in the microfabrication process.
For example, DNA and other relevant biomolecules have three-dimensional structures and are sensitive to oxidation, hydrolysis, denaturation and thermal destruction. On the other hand, silicon’s crystalline structure requires processing under harsh conditions with bases and acids bases at high temperatures.
Fashion MEMS – Latest Research & Development
Despite such limitation, BioMEMS advancements grow at an accelerated rate in the academic environment. For example, researchers at the Technical University of Denmark have engineered a silicon cantilever structure that can be used in a wide range of sensing scenarios.
Another team from the Biotechnology Research Institute at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology have used a silicon-glass substrate to overcome the biomolecules-silicon problem, while experts from the BioMEMS and Single Molecule Lab at Johns Hopkins are developing a new generation of MEMS with unique performance characteristics.
Initial use of MEMS in fashion found Google engineers launch Project Soli. The team paired advanced sensors to the wearer’s hands and fingers and turned them into the only interfaces need to interact with surrounding objects. For example, with a snap of the fingers, the users can start music, turn on lights, or even lower the volume.
Project Soli’s gesture-based fashion innovation uses a ‘radar’ system able to identify the wearer’s location and movements – in real-time – with a fingerprint accuracy, and convert any gestures into pre-defined actions. Pair that with augmented reality features and the cybersuit is born.
As a new wave of fashion technology designers graduate and join leading fashion and luxury brands across the world, their advanced knowledge of MEMS, and smart materials, will give way to the next generation of sustainable products, with sophisticated features, able to construct previously unseen ‘wearer-body-environment’ experiences. Rest assured, innovation will make the fashion industry great again.