As technology continues to amaze the world a group of researchers has now developed a new material that is as soft as cotton yet strong like Kevlar. What’s more, this material can be used like normal clothes as well as washed the same way.
The material that is called “carbon nanotube threads” works just like the wires of an electrocardiogram (EKG) monitoring device that measures heart rhythms to detect heart conditions. Unlike the EKG device, these can be sewn into a t-shirt and worn like normal athletic apparel from researchers at the Rice University Brown School of Engineering lab. This t-shirt unlike the EKG’s bulky wires can be worn comfortably repeatedly, be stretched, and washed without it wearing out.
Although it is a long journey to bulk production for immediate consumer consumption, the material could potentially replace EKG device monitors in medical facilities, heart-rate monitoring watches among other potential uses.
Lauren Taylor, a Rice University graduate student says that another application of this material could be for next-generation military uniforms
Taylor who is the lead author of the study added in the study added that “Not only are we able to use this material for EKG electrodes, we’re also able to use them as antennas so that we can track the location of military personnel.”
Several tech companies have already invested in building similar capabilities into devices such as the Apple (AAPL) Watch introduced heart-rate monitoring in 2018 that has added other medical functionalities. Additionally, in 2019, Google announced plans to buy FitBit, a deal that was completed earlier this year.
The Rice University lab in 2013 created carbon nanotube fiber and has continued its research in medical procedures such as cochlear implants for hearing loss as well as to repair damaged hearts.
For this latest creations, the team at The Rice University worked with a rope-maker to weave the filaments together into a material similar to regular sewing thread. The study states that the resulting “smart” shirt provides “soft, wearable, dry sensors for noninvasive and continuous” electrocardiogram monitoring. Although, it must be noted that existing EKG monitors have been improved to become already fairly comfortable as well as less intrusive.
Some modifications would be required to this apparel with these fibers that could eventually be able to track other vital signs, according to the researcher’s team.
Oliver Dewy, a member of the research team said, “You just don’t find soft, flexible, threadlike materials that are comfortable to the touch, that you can work with, that you can build a bridge out of it or you can build a powerline out of it, but you can also run it through a sewing machine. Nothing else behaves like this.”