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Stretchable wearable putty-based sensor devised

By Tim Sandle     Dec 20, 2016 in Technology
A new, stretchable wearable sensor has been devised inspired by the children’s toy silly putty. The bio-sensor is made from a polymer together with the flexible material graphene.
The senor is designed to monitor a number of biological functions, including blood pressure, heart rate and other highly key biometrics that inform about a person’s health.
The device has been devised by researchers from Trinity College Dublin, from a laboratory headed by Dr. Jonathan Coleman. The device is very sensitive; according to the researchers, the slightest touch produces very good sensitivity. The slightest touch alters the electrical resistance.
Interviewed by Laboratory Roots, Dr. Coleman explains the inspiration for the new sensor: “one of my students thought, ‘Well, Silly Putty is a kids toy, but it’s really just a polymer, and a lot of people mix graphene with polymers — so why don’t we mix graphene with Silly Putty and see what happens?’”
The ultra-sensitivity means, Popular Science reports, that the material can sense shifts in body motions and this allows data relating to heart rate and breathing, for example, to be captured and from differences from the norm to be assessed. The accuracy of the data and indications of a patient’s health status are enhanced when the device is measuring continually (such as variations in blood pressure).
By being stretchable the device can be fitted to any body surface. This is possible from the combination of plastic putty and graphene. Graphene is a carbon based material that conducts electricity and it can be stretched without the material properties altering. The material has been named as the G-Putty sensor.
A further application of the putty is as an impact sensor. Such is the sensitivity, the researchers have tested this out on spiders, to measure the impact of a spider’s footprints on a surface. The results are described as accurate, despite the awkwardness in trying to measure the path of a spider.
The research findings are published in the journal Science, with the research titled “Sensitive electromechanical sensors using viscoelastic graphene-polymer nanocomposites.”
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