Soon after babies are born, they’ll wear a blanket swaddle and a knit hat, but a Louisiana State University (LSU) researcher thought the hat could be used for more than a warm covering. Sibei Xia, Ph.D., assistant professor in the LSU Dept. of Textiles, Apparel Design, and Merchandising is exploring ways to use smart materials to track a newborn’s temperature by developing body-tracking wearable technology using an available thermochromic yarn.
The material has been used to make a baby hat that will display a color change in the threads to alert caregivers if the baby has a spike in temperature. The use of thermochromic technology may reduce the need to monitor a newborn’s temperature using thermometers or other more invasive technology. The hat also has the potential to reduce the number of times the infant is disturbed for a temperature check.
Xia said advanced knitting technology makes it possible to explore functional yarns in the medical field. “One requirement of wearable technology is to make it really close to our body, and that can be achieved perfectly through knitting technology,” she said.
The prototype for the hat was produced using the department’s flatback knitting machines, which are computer-controlled, allowing the operator to customize patterns and tension. The thermochromic yarn threshold temperature can be changed by adding additional yarns or changing the knitting pattern.
The department is exploring other ways to implement functional yarn that can be used for other medical needs, such as highly elastic yarn used for compression. Xia recently trained on new knitting machine technology that has many applications in the medical field.