Researchers have embedded sensors in t-shirts and face masks that can monitor breathing, heart rate, and ammonia. The sensors are useful in tracking a number of applications, including, exercise, sleep, and stress. It can help with the diagnosis of conditions through breathing and other vital signs. The sensors are low cost and have been developed from a new Imperial-developed cotton-based conductive thread, known as PECOTEX. It costs just $0.15 and can produce a meter of thread to easily handle over ten sensors in clothing. In addition, PECOTEX can fit together with industry-standard computerized embroidery machines.
The lead author of the study Fahad Alshabouna, PhD candidate at Imperial’s Department of Bioengineering, said, “The flexible medium of clothing means our sensors have a wide range of applications. They’re also relatively easy to produce which means we could scale up manufacturing and usher in a new generation of wearables in clothing.”
The team of researchers embroidered the sensors in a face mask to track breathing, a t-shirt to track heart rate, and textiles to check gases such as ammonia, an element of the breath which can be used to monitor liver and kidney health. The ammonia sensors were made to check if gas sensors can also be developed with embroidery.
Also read: Defective fat sensor protein responsible for obesity
Fahad further added, “We demonstrated applications in monitoring cardiac activity and breathing, and sensing gases. Future potential applications include diagnosing and monitoring disease and treatment, monitoring the body during exercise, sleep, and stress, and use in batteries, heaters, anti- static clothing.”
PECOTEX is machine washable, less breakable and more conductive electrically as compared to other available silver-based conductive threads of the same budget, which means that more layers can be added to develop other complex types of sensor. Lead author Dr Firat Guder, also of the Department of Bioengineering, said, “PECOTEX is high-performing, strong, and adaptable to different needs. It’s readily scalable, meaning we can produce large volumes inexpensively using both domestic and industrial computerized embroidery machines. ” He further added, “Our research opens up exciting possibilities for wearable sensors in everyday clothing. By monitoring breathing, heart rate, and gases, they can already be seamlessly integrated, and might even be able to help diagnose and monitor treatments of disease in the future.”