"CareGum" could boost rehabilitative tech and nonverbal communications
An experimental new material could help rehabilitate the injured and allow the nonspeaking to "speak," among other potential uses. It's also highly elastic, electrically conductive and self-healing – and it's known as CareGum.
Developed by scientists at the Technical University of Denmark, CareGum is a hydrogel made mainly of fibroin protein (derived from natural silk) and graphene oxide. The latter is the oxidized form of graphene, which in turn is a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms linked in a honeycomb pattern.
Not only is CareGum very stretchable, conductive and able to heal itself when cut, but it's also moldable, 3D-printable, biocompatible, adhesive to a wide range of substances, and inexpensive to produce. With these qualities in mind, the researchers believe that it could be utilized in implantable biomedical sensors which would be adhered to bone, heart tissue or other muscle tissue.
It could additionally be incorporated into "smart" fabrics or skin-adhered sensors, which would track a recuperating patient's movements by detecting changes that occurred in the CareGum's electrical resistance as it was deformed. In this way, it would be possible to ensure that the patients were performing their rehabilitative exercises properly.
Along those same lines, the scientists have created a prototype "Bionic Glove" that utilizes bands of CareGum along each finger to monitor the wearer's hand movements. As that person communicates in sign language via hand gestures, a linked microcomputer is able to determine which gestures are being made – it could then use a voice synthesizer to speak the words that the wearer is unable to vocalize.
A paper on the study – which is being led by Assoc. Prof. Alireza Dolatshahi-Pirouz and researcher Firoz Babu Kadumundi – was recently published in the journal Advanced Materials.