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

Dec 08, 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", pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/p… ll/10.1021/jf8016095

Provided by American Chemical Society

Explore further: Engineered proteins stick like glue—even in water

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mass spectrometry in your hand

Sep 09, 2014

If you're out in the field doing environmental testing, food checks, forensic work, or other chemical analysis, mass spectrometry is an extremely accurate detection tool with one huge drawback: You can lose ...

Recommended for you

Engineered proteins stick like glue—even in water

Sep 21, 2014

Shellfish such as mussels and barnacles secrete very sticky proteins that help them cling to rocks or ship hulls, even underwater. Inspired by these natural adhesives, a team of MIT engineers has designed ...

Smallest possible diamonds form ultra-thin nanothreads

Sep 21, 2014

For the first time, scientists have discovered how to produce ultra-thin "diamond nanothreads" that promise extraordinary properties, including strength and stiffness greater than that of today's strongest ...

User comments : 0