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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
people

Andy Etches

Founder and sports director, Rezzil
Rezzil was able to have an injured player learning his new manager's philosophy, positioning and playing style – all from a seated position

Staying sticky

Bob Lawson explains how digital fitness platforms and apps can maximise retention and prevent churn

Collect wind power as you move

Researchers in China have designed a tiny device that can scavenge wind energy from the breeze you make when you walk or run

Clubs without walls

Venueserve Fitness is working with the Health Club Collection to drive its digital customer engagement
interview

Blurring the lines

Les Mills has launched a suite of digital solutions to help gyms future-proof by expanding their reach in the booming online fitness space, while complementing their live offerings. Steph Eaves talks to Les Mills International’s CMO Anna Henwood to find out more

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Feelings of pressure, isolation and performance anxiety are commonly experienced by athletes, however it isn’t always easy for clubs to identify those who are struggling. Richard Lucas, founder of GoVox, explains how technology can help

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Devi Mahadevia

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Hussle HQ
Hussle HQ