Researchers at Brown School of Engineering at Rice University, Houston, Texas, have successfully woven flexible carbon nanotube fibers into clothing for accurate and more comfortable heart monitoring. The lab of chemical and biomolecular engineer Matteo Pasquali reported in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters that it had sewed nanotube fibers into athletic wear to monitor the heart rate and take a continual electrocardiogram (EKG) of the wearer. The fibers are just as conductive as metal wires, but washable, comfortable and far less likely to break when a body is in motion, according to the researchers.
Generally, the shirt they enhanced was better at gathering data than a standard chest-strap monitor taking live measurements during experiments. When matched with commercial medical electrode monitors, the carbon nanotube shirt gave slightly better EKGs.
“The shirt has to be snug against the chest,” said Rice graduate student Lauren Taylor, lead author of the study. “In future studies, we will focus on using denser patches of carbon nanotube threads so there’s more surface area to contact the skin.”
The researchers noted nanotube fibers are soft and flexible, and clothing that incorporates them is machine washable. The fibers can be machine-sewn into fabric just like standard thread. The zigzag stitching pattern allows the fabric to stretch without breaking them.
The fibers provided not only steady electrical contact with the wearer’s skin but also served as electrodes to connect electronics like Bluetooth transmitters to relay data to a smartphone or connect to a Holter monitor that can be stowed in a user’s pocket, Taylor said.
Source: Rice University