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Carbon nanotube fibers used in new ‘smart shirt’

Swatches | December 1, 2021 | By:

A Rice University lab has developed a new technology for creating a health monitoring shirt using flexible, conductive nanotube thread to weave functionality into regular apparel. The university’s Brown School of Engineering lab of chemical and biomolecular engineer Matteo Pasquali report that the lab 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. 

During experiments, the researchers learned that, on the whole, the shirt they enhanced was better at gathering data than a standard chest-strap monitor taking live measurements. 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 research was published in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters. Photo: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University. 

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