Breathable electronic material makes for more comfortable wearables
Engineers from North Carolina State University have developed a thin, stretchable electronic wearable sleeve that allows the user's skin to breathe, making for more comfortable long-term use as a biomedical sensor or human-machine interface.
The research team, led by professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State Yong Zhu, created a stretchable polymer film with holes evenly distributed throughout. This film was dipped in a solution containing silver nanowires and then heat-pressed to seal the nanowires in, just below the surface of the polymer.
"The end result is extremely thin – only a few micrometers thick," said co-author of the paper Shanshan Yao. "This allows for better contact with the skin, giving the electronics a better signal-to-noise ratio. And gas permeability of wearable electronics is important for more than just comfort. If a wearable device is not gas permeable, it can also cause skin irritation.”
The material is reported to be electrically conductive, benefit from optical transmittance and, according to Zhu, have "excellent stability in the presence of sweat and after long-term wear." It was developed for use in biomedical and wearable technologies, so the team worked on some prototypes to show off potential applications.
The first was made up of dry electrodes that could be mounted on the skin of the wearer and act as electrophysiological sensors, for measuring such things as electrocardiography and electromyography signals for example. Zhu confirmed that the signal recording quality of the sensors was about the same as commercially available electrodes.
Next, the engineers integrated the technology into a wearable textile sleeve to create a touch-sensing controller for playing computer games like Tetris.
A paper on the development has been published in the journal ACS Nano. The second prototype can be seen in action in the short video below.
Source: NC State