Today, separate systems on commercial or military aircraft

handle communications, radar warnings of incoming missiles, and stealth capabilities. But 20 or 30 years from now, “all of those systems are going to be integrated into the skin of the aircraft—such that you have one nearly invisible system that can perform a number of diff erent functions.”

Fibers’ functions to grow rapidly Yoel Fink, a professor of materials science and electrical engineering at MIT, wrote the proposal the Obama admin- istration picked to get AFFOA and its Fabric Discovery Centers off the ground. He is now AFFOA’s CEO. “The fi rst thing we are going to do at AFFOA is create a

Moore’s Law for fi bers,” Fink said. That observation “framed the entire semiconductor industry for decades,” and that industry proved the number of devices and functions could double in computer chips every couple of years. The number of functions in a fi ber will grow with similar speed, he said, adding that speed might someday be called the AFFOA law. Bluewater Defense CEO Eric Spackey said the innova-

tion might come sooner than every 18 months. “It may be 12 months or less,” he said. Spackey’s fi rm, which makes about 16,000 combat

trousers a day, started working with Fink and Lettow in the spring of 2015 on wearable graphene antennas and is now weaving them into backpacks and combat shirts. “These are the fi rst cases where [AFFOA members] are

starting to work together to come up with a product that will be geared for industry,” said Spackey, who in recent weeks was named chief marketing offi cer for AFFOA. “It is going to enable folks looking to put sensors in clothing, whether for medical or defense uses, and move that information to the cloud. We will also be able to gather large amounts of infor- mation—big data—so we can start doing predictive analytics.” Because apparel makers like Nike and New Balance are

involved, DOD players will learn “rapid design cycles” and consumer-product-manufacturing techniques, Antoinette said. “If it is handled right, it will revolutionize how we build products for aerospace and defense. If your workout shirt doesn’t work, it’s no big deal. But it sure is a big deal if your body armor doesn’t work.”

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Summer 2016

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