FRONT PAGE: UCI Invention Lets People Pay For Purchases With A High-Five

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Newswise — Irvine, Calif., Nov. 16, 2021 — Imagine your car starting the moment you get in because it recognizes the jacket you’re wearing. Imagine a hospital gown that constantly measures and transmits the vital signs of a patient. Engineers at the University of California Irvine have made these two applications possible with a new fabric that allows for “body area networks”.

In a paper published recently in Nature Electronics, researchers in UCI’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering detail how they integrated advanced metamaterials into flexible textiles to create a system capable of battery-free communication between articles of clothing and nearby devices. If you have held your smartphone or credit card near a reader in order to pay for a purchase, then you are using near-field signaling technology. Peter Tseng (UCI assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science), co-author, said that the fabrics operate on the same principle but have extended the range considerably. “This allows you to carry your phone around with you, and by simply touching your skin against other readers or textiles, information and power can be transferred to your phone.”

Lead author Amirhossein Hajiaghajani is a UCI Ph.D student in electrical engineering and computer science. He said that the invention allows wearers to interact digitally with nearby electronic devices, making secure payments and interacting with them with just one swipe or touch of a sleeve.

“With the fabric, electronics establish signaling when you hover your clothing over a wireless reader. This allows you to share information with a simple handshake or high-five. “You wouldn’t need to manually unlock your car using a key or separate wireless device. Your body would be the badge to open facility gates.”

Tseng compares the technology to a railroad that transmits power and signals while it traverses a garment. This system makes it possible to add new segments quickly and allows separate clothing pieces to “talk” to one another.

The near-field communication protocol has allowed for the expansion of applications like wireless device charging and battery-free sensor powering. However, NFC’s limited range has been a problem. Researchers at UCI extended the signal range to over 4 feet by using passive magnetic metamaterials made of etched copper foils and aluminum.

The team’s invention was flexible and sensitive to bodily movement. It is possible to coordinate different pieces of clothing because signals travel via magnetic induction in the UCI-invented system, instead of the continuous hard-wire connections made in smart fabrics. Athletic gear can track the heart rate, and pants can measure legs movements.

The applications in medicine are countless, Hajiaghajani said, such as freeing hospital staff from the task of applying numerous patient sensors, as they can all be integrated into metamaterial-equipped gowns.

The materials used in the system are inexpensive and easy to make and customize. Wearers can heat press varying lengths of the metamaterial “rails”, which can then be attached to their existing clothes – there’s no need to buy a new high-tech tracksuit.

” Our textiles are easy to make and can be incorporated with interesting wearable design,” Hajiaghajani stated. The National Science Foundation provided support for this project.

Fadi Kurdahi (UCI professor of electrical engineering and computer science) and Amir Hosein Afandizadeh Zargari Zargari, Manik Dutta, and Abel Jimenez were also part of the team.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. Three Nobel laureates have been awarded to the campus. It is also known for its outstanding research, innovation, and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It is located in Orange County, which is home to some of the most safe and economically vibrant areas in the world. The county’s second largest employer contributes $7 billion annually to local economies and $8 billion overall. For more on UCI, visit

Media access: Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UCI faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UCI news, visit Additional resources for journalists may be found at


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