A sewing machine and a somewhat special thread: with this they have created this “intelligent” T-shirt capable of performing ECG
With the arrival of the wearables And with the increasing scope of minitatorization, it seems that the idea of creating clothing that goes beyond its normal function to become something electronic is becoming more and more attractive. Not surprisingly, this year we saw how ZTE presented a 5G T-shirt that also monitored vital signs.
Along the same lines we now see a similar proposal, but starting from a university project and almost as something DIY, since some students have created a smart shirt made by sewing carbon nanotubes quite simply (as far as possible). Sewing machine by means of a sewing machine, they have started from a standard shirt and have added what is necessary for him to perform an electrocardiogram, as shown.
Sew and sing, but with nanotubes
The Carbon nanotubes They were already planted years ago as a useful tool to achieve desired functions such as flexibility or even aspiring to build artificial muscle, and we have seen them applied to many research projects. This year, in fact, we were even talking about headphones with these nanotubes.
In this case, the application has been made in a normal t-shirt by means of a nanotube thread with conduction capacity. The idea: that it can replace watches with an electrocardiogram (ECG) function such as the Apple Watch Series 6 or the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, among others.
As they describe in their work, these Rice University researchers looked for something that would add this function to the shirt, while maintaining the qualities of being washable and comfortable.
The carbon nanotube thread measures 22 microns and is fully compatible with the use of a conventional sewing machine, so as they show the manufacture is simple (having this reel, which is not at all conventional). As they explain, it is a resistant thread that, in addition to being washed, withstands pulling well and does not break easily, which is also favored by that zig-zag pattern that they have applied to the seam.
In principle it does not seem very cumbersome, although to be completely useful it has to be connected to a Bluetooth transmitter to send the records to some devices or to a small monitor, such as a Holter monitor. And beware, they are not lacking because the researchers ensure that your T-shirt gives more accurate ECG results than commercial devices (and traditional) with electrodes, after having consulted three cardiologists in a blind test (as reflected in the work).
In the case of this type of sensors, and as it happens in the wearables, they need to be “glued” to the reading surface (in this case, the chest). Hence, for future versions they want to try it with larger patches of nanotubes so that there is more surface of contact.
The idea is that, using this same method of sewing conductive wires, you can add antennas or even LEDs. They consider that with few modifications to the geometry of the fibers and the added electronics, the T-shirts could be used to measure respiratory rate and other parameters.
Images | Jeff Fitlow