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Could elastic bands monitor patients’ breathing?

Wed, 08/20/2014 - 11:39am

Research published in ACS Nano identifies a new type of sensor that could monitor body movement and advance the future of global health care.

Although body motion sensors already exist in different forms, they have not been widely used due to their complexity and cost of production. Now, scientists from the Univ. of Surrey and Trinity College Dublin have for the first time treated common elastic bands with graphene, to create a flexible sensor that is sensitive enough for medical application.

Once treated, the rubber bands remain highly pliable. By fusing this material with graphene—which imparts an electromechanical response on movement—the material can be used as a sensor to measure a patient’s breathing, heart rate or movement, alerting doctors to any irregularities.

“Until now, no such sensor has been produced that meets these needs,” said Surrey’s Dr. Alan Dalton. “It sounds like a simple concept, but our graphene-infused rubber bands could really help to revolutionize remote health care—and they’re very cheap to manufacture.”

Corresponding author, Prof. Jonathan Coleman from Trinity College, Dublin commented, “This stretchy material senses motion such as breathing, pulse and joint movement and could be used to create lightweight sensor suits for vulnerable patients such as premature babies, making it possible to remotely monitor their subtle movements and alert a doctor to any worrying behaviors.

“These sensors are extraordinarily cheap compared to existing technologies. Each device would probably cost pennies instead of pounds, making it ideal technology for use in developing countries where there are not enough medically trained staff to effectively monitor and treat patients quickly.”

Source: Univ. of Surrey

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