Science

Flexible pressure sensor could boost breast cancer screening

The flexible sensor is able to wrap around a user's fingers while still accurately measuring pressure distribution
The flexible sensor is able to wrap around a user's fingers while still accurately measuring pressure distribution
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The researchers tested their device with an artificial blood vessel, where it able to detect tiny changes in pressure, as well as the speed of pressure propagation
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The researchers tested their device with an artificial blood vessel, where it able to detect tiny changes in pressure, as well as the speed of pressure propagation
The flexible sensor is able to wrap around a user's fingers while still accurately measuring pressure distribution
2/2
The flexible sensor is able to wrap around a user's fingers while still accurately measuring pressure distribution

Pressure sensors in use today arefairly capable, being sufficiently flexible to adhere to unevensurfaces like human skin. However, once they're twisted moresignificantly, they're unable to accurately keep track of pressurechanges. Now, researchers from the University of Tokyo have come upwith a much more versatile option, creating a new sensor that'sthinner than its rivals, and that can continue to sense pressure evenwhen curved over a tiny radius.

The newly-developed nanofiber sensor is able to measurepressure distribution on rounded surfaces, maintaining its accuracyeven when bent over a radius as small 80 micrometers, which is justtwice the width of a human hair. It features 144 pressure points andis also only 8 micrometers thick – a fraction of the 100-micrometerminimum thickness offered by sensors currently in production.

To build the device, the researcherscombined carbon nanotubes, graphene and an elastic polymer to formtiny nanofibers, meauring just 300 to 700 nanometers in diameter.These were then entangled to form a thin, lightweight and transparentstructure.

The researchers tested their deviceon an artificial blood vessel, where it was able to detect tiny changesin pressure, as well as the speed of pressure propagation. Whilethere's some way to go before doctors might get their hands on the tech,it could have a big impact on healthcare. For example, it would allowfor physical screening of breast cancer, using pressure-sensitiverubber gloves to detect tumors.

The findings of the study werepublished in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Source: University of Tokyo

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