Hyderabad: Health conscious people and fitness enthusiasts can now move away from smart watches or chest straps to monitor their heart and let a shirt do all the work. Researchers from the Rice University in Houston, Texas in the US have developed a nanotube thread that can be weaved into regular apparel and make it smart clothing.
The fibers are just as conductive as metal wires, but washable, comfortable and far less likely to break when a body is in motion, according to the researchers. The shirt was better at gathering data than a standard chest-strap monitor taking live measurements during experiments. The fibers can be machine-sewn into fabric just like standard thread. The zigzag stitching pattern allows the fabric to stretch without breaking them.
“The shirt has to be snug against the chest,” said Rice graduate student Lauren Taylor, lead author of the study said in a release. “In future studies, we will focus on using denser patches of carbon nanotube threads so there’s more surface area to contact the skin.”
The fibers provided not only steady electrical contact with the wearer’s skin but also served as electrodes to connect electronics like Bluetooth transmitters to relay data to a smartphone or connect to a Holter monitor that can be stowed in a user’s pocket, Taylor said.
Fibers woven into fabric can also be used to embed antennas or LEDs, according to the researchers. Minor modifications to the fibers’ geometry and associated electronics could eventually allow clothing to monitor vital signs, force exertion or respiratory rate.
Taylor noted other potential uses could include human-machine interfaces for automobiles or soft robotics, or as antennas, health monitors and ballistic protection in military uniforms.
Co-authors of the paper are Rice graduate students Steven Williams and Oliver Dewey, and alumni J. Stephen Yan, now at Boston Consulting Group, and Flavia Vitale, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania. Pasquali is director of the Carbon Hub and the A.J. Hartsook Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and a professor of chemistry and of materials science and nanoengineering..
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