Clothing with a brain: 'Smart fabrics' that monitor health

December 8, 2008
Researchers have developed a cost-effective procedure of making disease-detecting wearable fabrics, "smart fabrics." Above are microscopic images of the E-fibers. Credit: Credit: American Chemical Society

Researchers in United States and China are reporting progress toward a simple, low-cost method to make "smart fabrics," electronic textiles capable of detecting diseases, monitoring heart rates, and other vital signs.

A report on these straight-out-of-science-fiction-fibers, made of carbon nanotubes, is scheduled for the December 10 issue of ACS' Nano Letters.

In the new study, Nicholas A. Kotov, Chuanlai Xu, and colleagues point out that electronic textiles, or E-textiles, already are a reality. However, the current materials are too bulky, rigid, and complex for practical use. Fabric makers need simpler, more flexible materials to make E-fibers practical for future applications, they say.

The scientists describe development of cotton fibers coated with electrolytes and carbon nanotubes (CNT) — thin filaments 1/50,000 the width of a single human hair. The fibers are soft, flexible, and capable of transmitting electricity when woven into fabrics.

In laboratory tests, the researchers showed that the new E-fibers could light up a simple light-emitting diode when connected to a battery. When coated with certain antibodies, the fibers detected the presence of albumin, a key protein in blood — a function that could be used to detect bleeding in wounded soldiers. The fabrics could also help monitor diseases and vital signs, they say.

Article: "Smart Electronic Yarns and Wearable Fabrics for Human Biomonitoring made by Carbon Nanotube Coating with Polyelectrolytes",

Provided by American Chemical Society

Explore further: Nanotechnology research leads to super-elastic conducting fibers

Related Stories

Tiny wires could provide a big energy boost

July 7, 2015

Wearable electronic devices for health and fitness monitoring are a rapidly growing area of consumer electronics; one of their biggest limitations is the capacity of their tiny batteries to deliver enough power to transmit ...

New capability takes sensor fabrication to a new level

June 30, 2015

Operators must continually monitor conditions in power plants to assure they are operating safely and efficiently. Researchers on the Sensors and Controls Team at DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory can now fabricate ...

Billionaires aim for cheaper spaceflight

June 4, 2015

In the booming commercial space business, ventures founded by tech billionaires Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Paul Allen are reinventing the most expensive aspect - launching spacecraft into orbit.

Carbon nanothreads from compressed benzene

May 20, 2015

A new carbon nanomaterial – the thinnest possible one-dimensional thread that still retains a diamond-like structure – was created by the controlled, slow compression and decompression of benzene. The diamond-like structural ...

Recommended for you

Touchless displays superseding touchscreens?

October 2, 2015

While touchscreens are practical, touchless displays would be even more so. That's because, despite touchscreens having enabled the smartphone's advance into our lives and being essential for us to be able to use cash dispensers ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.