Exeter Researchers Develop Self-Powered Graphene-Based Wearable Sensors for Monitoring Vital Signs

Graphene wearable sensors
Image: Pixabay

The growth of IoT is prompting researchers to develop wearable sensors that can monitor patients’ vital signs remotely. However, devices for monitoring vital signs currently available in the market tend to be uncomfortable and bulky. They are also expensive and need experts to use them. Scientists at the University of Exeter in UK have now developed sensors that can be integrated directly into textiles themselves, to remove the discomfort of placing hardware directly in contact with human skin.

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The new technology integrates the electronic devices into the fabric of the material, by coating electronic fibers with light-weight, durable components that will allow images to be shown directly on the fabric, reports Exeter.

The research team believe that the discovery could revolutionize the creation of wearable electronic devices for use in a range of every day applications, as well as health monitoring, such as heart rates and blood pressure, and medical diagnostics.

The team was led by Professor Monica Craciun from the University of Exeter Engineering department. This international collaborative research included experts from the Centre for Graphene Science at the University of Exeter, the Universities of Aveiro and Lisbon in Portugal, and CenTexBel in Belgium.

“For truly wearable electronic devices to be achieved, it is vital that the components are able to be incorporated within the material, and not simply added to it,” said Professor Craciun.

Flexible sensors on a hand
Image: Wikimedia commons

Graphene is just one atom thick, making it the thinnest substance capable of conducting electricity. It is very flexible and is one of the strongest known materials. In recent years, scientists have been racing to adapt graphene for the use in wearable electronic devices.

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“This new research opens up the gateway for smart textiles to play a pivotal role in so many fields in the not-too-distant future.  By weaving the graphene fibres into the fabric, we have created a new technique to all the full integration of electronics into textiles. The only limits from now are really within our own imagination,” said Dr Elias Torres Alonso, Research Scientist at Graphenea and former PhD student in Professor Craciun’s team at Exeter.

The study was published in the journal Flexible Electronics.

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