Silver Fibers Open Door to Wearable Medical Sensors, Electronics

Thursday, 01 Aug 2013 03:36 PM

By Nick Tate

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British scientists have developed a technique for threading silver into clothing fibers that could open the door to new lines of wearable medical sensors and other consumer electronics.
 
Researchers with the National Physical Laboratory, the National Measurement Institute of the U.K., said the new method could make integrating electronics into all types of clothing simple and practical, and has many potential applications in health, medicine, consumer electronics, sports, and fashion.
 
Most existing wearable electronics require weaving conductive materials into fabrics, which can limit flexibility. But NPL's technique allows lightweight circuits to be printed directly onto complete garments, creating silver-coated fibers that are flexible and stretchable.

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"The technique has many potential applications," said project leader Chris Hunt. "One particularly exciting area is wearable sensors and antennas which could be used for monitoring, for example checking on patients and vulnerable people; data capture and feedback for soldiers in the field; and performance monitoring in sports.
 
"It offers particular benefits over the 'weaving in' approach, as the conductive pattern and flexibility ensures that sensors are always positioned in the same location on the body."
 
Hunt said the technique could also create opportunities in fashion and consumer technology, such as incorporating LED lighting into clothing or having touch-screens on shirt sleeves. In addition, silver’s antibacterial properties make it idea for use in wound dressings, face masks, long lasting anti-bacterial wipes, and military clothing.

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