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Lifestyle News | Scientists monitor vital signs by embedding sensors in t-shirts

Washington [US]Oct. 2 (ANI): New low-cost sensors in t-shirts and face masks that track breathing, heart rate and ammonia have been integrated by Imperial researchers.

Potential applications range from monitoring exercise, sleep and stress to diagnosing and monitoring disease through respiration and vital signs.

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Spun from a new conductive cotton-based yarn developed by Imperial called PECOTEX, the sensors cost little to manufacture. Just $0.15 produces a yard of thread to integrate more than ten sensors into garments seamlessly, and PECOTEX is compatible with industry standard computerized embroidery machines.

The research’s first author, Fahad Alshabouna, a PhD candidate in Imperial’s Department of Bioengineering, said: “The flexible wearable support means our sensors have a wide range of applications. They are also relatively easy to produce, which means we could increase manufacturing. and usher in a new generation of wearables in apparel.”

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The research team embroidered the sensors into a face mask to monitor breathing, a t-shirt to monitor heart activity, and textiles to monitor gases like ammonia, a component of breathing that can be used to monitor liver and kidney function. Ammonia sensors were developed to test whether gas sensors could also be made using embroidery.

Fahad added: “We have demonstrated applications in monitoring heart and respiration activity, and gas detection. Potential future applications include diagnosis and monitoring of diseases and treatments, monitoring the body during exercise, sleep and stress, and use in batteries, heaters, antistatic clothing.”

The research is published today in Materials Today.

Solderless sensors

Wearable sensors, like those in smartwatches, allow us to continuously monitor our health and well-being in a non-invasive way. Until now, however, there has been a lack of suitable lead wires, which is why wearable sensors seamlessly integrated into clothing are not yet widely available.

Enter PECOTEX. Developed and made into sensors by researchers at Imperial, the material is machine washable, less brittle and more electrically conductive than commercially available silver-based lead wires, meaning more layers can be added to create complex types of sensors.

Lead author Dr Firat Guder, also from the Department of Bioengineering, said: “PECOTEX is high performing, strong and adaptable to different needs. It is easily scalable which means we can produce large volumes inexpensively using home and industrial computerized embroidery machines.

“Our research opens up exciting possibilities for wearable sensors in everyday wear. By monitoring respiration, heart rate and gas, they can already be seamlessly integrated and may even be able to help diagnose and monitor disease treatments in the future.”

Next, researchers will explore new application areas such as energy storage, energy harvesting and biochemical sensing, as well as finding partners for commercialization. (ANI)

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