Gold shapes up as new-age sensor

Jul 07, 2014
Gold shapes up as new-age sensor

(Phys.org) —A wearable pressure sensor that is both highly sensitive and cheap to produce could aid the development of prosthetic skin, touch-on flexible displays and energy harvesting, as well as changing the way vital health signs are monitored.

Researchers from Monash University's Departments of Chemical Engineering and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication, produced the new sensor by sandwiching ultrathin gold nanowire-impregnated tissue paper between two polymer sheets. 

Researcher Dr Wenlong Cheng said the sensor had great potential for monitoring people's health anytime and anywhere. 

"The are flexible, yet robust and our testing showed they could be used for checking such things as , blood pulse and heartbeat. These results have particular implications for future 'at-home' diagnostic tools for elderly or disabled people," Dr Cheng said. 

Unlike current , which rely on brittle semiconductor material, the new sensor can be bent or twisted without cracking. 

The researchers used gold nanowire because of its ability to be highly flexible while maintaining high conductivity. 

"We chose the ultrathin gold nanowires because they are mechanically flexible and have good conductivity, yet are very robust which makes them highly suitable for wearable devices," Dr Cheng said. 

The nanowire used in the sensor is about two nanometres thick - a nanometre is one billionth of a metre - and is the thinnest gold wire produced. 

The sensor's robust flexibility means it could be worn as a diagnostic device, for example to detect blood pressure or pulse in real time and under various conditions, including during exercise or sleep. 

It also has potential use in a range of other applications, including detecting acoustic vibrations and in that could supersede hard tablet or phone touch screens that are subject to cracking.

The sensor has the added advantage over current versions that it does not need expensive equipment or costly cleanroom conditions to produce.

Dr Cheng said an exciting aspect was that while the team had only produced a patch-size sensor, the fabrication process could easily be replicated on a much larger scale.

The research was published in Nature Communications.

Explore further: The goose bump sensor: A step toward direct detection of human emotional states

More information: "A wearable and highly sensitive pressure sensor with ultrathin gold nanowires." Shu Gong, et al. Nature Communications 5, Article number: 3132 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4132. Received 28 August 2013 Accepted 17 December 2013 Published 04 February 2014

Related Stories

Miniature pressure sensors for medical touch

Mar 05, 2012

A new kind of flexible, transparent pressure sensor, developed at the University of California, Davis, for use in medical applications, relies on a drop of liquid.

Recommended for you

BioBots bioprinter to complement cutting-edge research

10 minutes ago

A high-resolution desktop 3D bioprinter that builds functional 3D living tissue was shown recently at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York. The machine is significant as a less expensive way for researchers to ...

US moves step closer to commercial drone use

13 hours ago

Drones will take to the skies to inspect crops and infrastructure as US civil aviation authorities moved a step closer Wednesday to allowing their widespread commercial use.

An airflow model to reduce time on the tarmac

17 hours ago

Plans for summer holidays are already taking shape. But before jetting off for some fun in the sun, many travellers will have to cope with long delays on the airport runway.

Sensor detects spoilage of food

21 hours ago

VTT has developed a sensor that detects ethanol in the headspace of a food package. Ethanol is formed as a result of food spoilage. The sensor signal is wirelessly readable, for instance, by a mobile phone. VTT Technical ...

Chest strap heart rate monitor

May 05, 2015

A team of Empa scientists has, together with industrial partners, developed a novel chest strap device for the long-term monitoring of patients with heart and circulatory problems. What is special about the ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

bptheincredible
not rated yet Jul 07, 2014
Why is there no discussion of how the sensor actually works? Is it working as a sort of strain sensor? Is it picking up electrical signals like an EMG? From the article it just sounds like some fancy gold wires in some tissue paper. Without purchasing the paper there is no way of telling.

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.