Researchers at Imperial College London have embedded new low-cost sensors designed to monitor breathing, heart rate and ammonia into T-shirts and face masks.
The wearable sensors are spun from a new thread called Pecotex, which is a polystyrene sulfonate-modified cotton conductive thread.
Pecotex offers a low-cost method of seamlessly integrating sensors into clothing, and is compatible with industry-standard computerized embroidery machines.
As part of the study, the research team embroidered the sensors into a face mask to monitor breathing, a T-shirt to monitor heart activity, and textiles to monitor gases like ammonia in the breath which can be used to track liver and kidney function. The ammonia sensors were developed to test whether gas sensors could also be manufactured using embroidery.
Potential application areas for the thread include energy storage, energy harvesting and biochemical sensing.
“Pecotex is high-performing, strong and adaptable to different needs,” says Imperial College researcher Firat Guder. “Our research opens up exciting possibilities for wearable sensors in everyday clothing. By monitoring breathing, heart rate and gases, they can already be seamlessly integrated, and might even be able to help diagnose and monitor treatments of disease in the future.”