New Low-Cost Thread Used in Wearable Sensors

Updated: Nov 3

By Advanced Textiles Source


This article was published by Advanced Textiles Source October 10, 2022.


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 Imperial-developed thread called Pecotex, which is a polystyrene sulfonate-modified cotton conductive thread that is compatible with computerized embroidery.


At about $0.14 per meter, the researchers say Pecotex offers a low-cost method of seamlessly integrating sensors into clothing, as it is compatible with industry-standard computerized embroidery machines. Potential applications range from monitoring exercise, sleep, and stress to diagnosing and monitoring disease through breath and other vital signs.


“The flexible medium of clothing means our sensors have a wide range of applications,” says Fahad Alshabouna, first author of the research and Ph.D. candidate at Imperial’s Dept. of Bioengineering. “They’re also relatively easy to produce, which means we could scale up manufacturing and usher in a new generation of wearables in clothing.”


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 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.


In the next phase, the researcher team will explore new application areas such as energy storage, energy harvesting, and biochemical sensing, as well as finding partners for commercialization.

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