Innovation That Matters

Test results produced analysis equal to or better than currently available monitors. | Photo source Jeff Fitlow, Rice University

Flexible carbon nanofibres used in smart heart rate monitor

Health & Wellbeing

The soft nanofibres create an easy-to-use, comfortable health wearable

Spotted: A team of Rice University researchers have used soft, flexible carbon nanofibres to turn a tight-fitting t-shirt into a smart heart rate monitor. The fibres are so small that they had to be bundled together using a rope-making technique in order to make them large enough for use in a conventional sewing machine. Once in thread form, the nanofibres are sewn in a zig-zag pattern onto the clothing.  

Not only is the carbon thread flexible, lightweight and soft, it also conducts enough electricity to make it usable as a mobile heart rate monitor. Test results produced analysis equal to or better than currently available monitors. Readings are sent via Bluetooth and the system can be hooked up to other monitors for a range of additional uses, including respiration analysis. Compared to clunky plastic monitors which patients have to strap to their bodies, the threads provide much less invasive and more comfortable healthcare diagnostics and monitoring.  

The fibres could also be used as an antenna for potential future use in tracking military units, and, thanks to their strength, in military ballistic wear. Since their introduction in 2013 by the University, teams have focused on new applications for the fibres. Other uses being considered include tracking athletic performance.  

Other nanofibre spottings by Springwise include a t-shirt made from layers of nanoparticles that keeps wearers both cool and warm and a hydrogel modelled on the underbelly of lobsters.  

Written by: Keely Khoury

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