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Research: Functional wearables

A new ultra-thin, stretchable electronic material could be a game changer for wearable tech

Published in Fit Tech 2020 issue 2

A new ultra-thin, stretchable electronic material that allows a product to “breathe” could have the potential to help create more functional wearable tech.

Created by a team of engineering researchers at North Carolina State University (NCSU), the as-yet-unnamed material combines a stretchable polymer film with silver nanowires, making it flexible but highly conductive.

Allows sweat to evaporate
Being gas permeable, the material allows sweat and organic compounds to evaporate from the skin – making it more comfortable for users, especially for long-term wear.

Designed specifically to be used in wearable tech solutions, the product is only a few micrometers thick – allowing for better contact with the skin and giving the electronics a better “signal-to-noise ratio”.

“The resulting film shows an excellent combination of electric conductivity, optical transmittance and water-vapor permeability,” said Yong Zhu, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NCSU.

“The gas permeability is the big advance over earlier stretchable electronics – and because the silver nanowires are embedded just below the surface of the polymer, the material also exhibits excellent stability in the presence of sweat and after long-term wear.”

To demonstrate its potential for use in wearables, researchers tested prototypes for two representative applications:

The first prototype consisted of skin-mountable, dry electrodes for use as electrophysiologic sensors. These have multiple potential applications, such as measuring electrocardiography (ECG) and electromyography (EMG) signals.

“The sensors were able to record signals with excellent quality, on a par with commercially available electrodes,” Zhu says.

Human:machine interface
The second prototype demonstrated textile-integrated touch-sensing for human-machine interfaces. The authors used a wearable textile sleeve integrated with the porous electrodes to play computer games, such as Tetris.

“If we want to develop wearable sensors or user interfaces that can be worn for a significant period of time, we need gas-permeable electronic materials,” Zhu added. “So this is a significant step forward.”

Find out more: FitTechglobal.com/breathe

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
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Research: Functional wearables

A new ultra-thin, stretchable electronic material could be a game changer for wearable tech

Published in Fit Tech 2020 issue 2

A new ultra-thin, stretchable electronic material that allows a product to “breathe” could have the potential to help create more functional wearable tech.

Created by a team of engineering researchers at North Carolina State University (NCSU), the as-yet-unnamed material combines a stretchable polymer film with silver nanowires, making it flexible but highly conductive.

Allows sweat to evaporate
Being gas permeable, the material allows sweat and organic compounds to evaporate from the skin – making it more comfortable for users, especially for long-term wear.

Designed specifically to be used in wearable tech solutions, the product is only a few micrometers thick – allowing for better contact with the skin and giving the electronics a better “signal-to-noise ratio”.

“The resulting film shows an excellent combination of electric conductivity, optical transmittance and water-vapor permeability,” said Yong Zhu, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NCSU.

“The gas permeability is the big advance over earlier stretchable electronics – and because the silver nanowires are embedded just below the surface of the polymer, the material also exhibits excellent stability in the presence of sweat and after long-term wear.”

To demonstrate its potential for use in wearables, researchers tested prototypes for two representative applications:

The first prototype consisted of skin-mountable, dry electrodes for use as electrophysiologic sensors. These have multiple potential applications, such as measuring electrocardiography (ECG) and electromyography (EMG) signals.

“The sensors were able to record signals with excellent quality, on a par with commercially available electrodes,” Zhu says.

Human:machine interface
The second prototype demonstrated textile-integrated touch-sensing for human-machine interfaces. The authors used a wearable textile sleeve integrated with the porous electrodes to play computer games, such as Tetris.

“If we want to develop wearable sensors or user interfaces that can be worn for a significant period of time, we need gas-permeable electronic materials,” Zhu added. “So this is a significant step forward.”

Find out more: FitTechglobal.com/breathe

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
Gallery
More features

Fighting COVID-19

In the aftermath of the pandemic, people will be more aware of the importance of their health and the strength of their immune system. Can fit tech alert users to potential immunodeficiencies or symptoms? And might these products assist governments? We asked industry leaders for their predictions
interview

Will Ahmed, Whoop

Whoop is taking wearable technology to the next level, providing deeper insights into individuals’ physiology and enabling optimised training. Founder and CEO Will Ahmed talks to Steph Eaves about the importance of personalised feedback
people

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VP of AI, Stats Perform
We can capture tracking data from historical videos, enabling us to do large scale comparisons of players, such as Michael Jordan, across eras
interview

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We’ve been ranked number two on the App Store for health and fitness, second only to Fitbit
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Daniel Sobhani, Freeletics

Our company vision is to challenge and inspire people to become the greatest version of themselves. And I firmly believe that this can be achieved through what we do
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Paul Bowman, Wexer

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interview

Lindsay Cook, FitOn

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people

Ian Mullane

Founder, Keepme
Using predictive and machine learning models, operators can hyper-personalise engagement
people

Richard Hanbury

Founder and CEO, Sana
I was in Yemen, close to the capital, Sana’a, when I had the accident that put me in a wheelchair and gave me a chronic nerve damage pain problem. This led me to develop the underlying technology of Sana
interview

Forme Life: Trent Ward & Yves Béhar

We have such a timeless design that this product will fit into the home for a long time
interview

Digital ecosystem

The digitisation of the sector was going to happen anyway. COVID-19 has simply accelerated the digital transformation
Editor's letter

Monetising digital

Having made a lightening fast pivot to digital during lockdown, gym operators are now figuring out how to optimise the assets they’ve invested in – it’s time to monetise digital and find ways to create hybrid models
Technogym
Technogym