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.
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