OCT 01, 2022 10:00 AM PDT

Sensors Embedded into T-Shirts and Face Masks Could Monitor Biosignatures

Credit: Pixabay

In a recent study submitted to Materials Today, an international team of researchers led by the Imperial College in London have developed wearable, low-cost sensors that can be implanted onto t-shirts and face masks and used to monitor key biosignatures, such as heart rate, breathing, and even ammonia. This study holds the potential to improve the monitoring of sleep, exercise, stress, and even diagnosing and tracking disease, and was collaborated with scientists from Saud Arabia.

The sensors were produced from a new cotton-based conductive thread developed at Imperial College called PECOTEX that costs a miniscule $0.15 per meter of thread that can incorporate more than 10 sensors into clothing while also maintaining compatibility with industry-standard computerized embroidery machines.

"The flexible medium of clothing means our sensors have a wide range of applications,” said Fahad Alshabouna, a PhD candidate at Imperial College’s Department of Bioengineering, and lead author of the study. “They're also relatively easy to produce which means we could scale up manufacturing and usher in a new generation of wearables in clothing."

For the study, the researchers sewed the sensors onto t-shirts, face masks, and textiles to monitor different biosignatures. The t-shirt sensors monitored heart activity, the face mask sensors monitored breathing, and the textile sensors monitored ammonia, which can be used to monitor kidney and liver function.

"We demonstrated applications in monitoring cardiac activity and breathing, and sensing gases,” said Alshabouna. “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."

While wearable devices such as smartwatches have made incredible advancements in monitoring one’s health, the use of wearable sensors in clothing hasn’t been widely available, primarily due to the lack of suitable conductive threads. This has changed with the introduction of PECOTEX.

"PECOTEX is high-performing, strong, and adaptable to different needs,” said Dr. First Guder of Imperial College’s Department of Bioengineering, and a co-author on the study. “It's readily scalable, meaning we can produce large volumes inexpensively using both domestic and industrial computerized embroidery machines. 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."

Sources: Materials Today

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About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of "Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey".
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