Scientists have developed a low-cost, washable sensor that can be interlaced into textiles and composite materials, paving the way for smart clothing that can monitor human movement. The microscopic sensor, described in the journal 'Small', is able to recognise local motion through the stretching of the woven yarns that are treated with graphene nanoplatelets that can read the body's activity.
"Microscopic sensors are changing the way we monitor machines and humans," said Professor Mina Hoorfar, from University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada. "Combining the shrinking of technology along with improved accuracy, the future is very bright in this area," said Hoorfar.
This 'shrinking technology' uses a phenomenon called piezo-resistivity -- an electromechanical response of a material when it is under strain. These tiny sensors have shown a great promise in detecting human movements and can be used for heart rate monitoring or temperature control, said Hoorfar.
This sheath protects the conductive layer against harsh conditions and allows for the creation of washable wearable sensors. While the idea of smart clothing -- fabrics that can tell the user when to hydrate, or when to rest -- may change the athletics industry, UBC Professor Abbas Milani said.
It can monitor deformations in fibre-reinforced composite fabrics currently used in advanced industries such as automotive, aerospace and marine manufacturing. The low-cost stretchable composite sensor has also shown a high sensitivity and can detect small deformations such as yarn stretching as well as out-of-plane deformations at inaccessible places within composite laminates, said Milani.
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