August 31, 2021

New Smart Clothing Watches Your Heart

The phrase ‘Wearing your heart on your sleeve’ is about to take on a more literal meaning once a group of scientists from Rice University complete the fine-tuning of their “smart clothes”.

The concept – which involves sewing nanotube fibres in a zig-zag stitching pattern into athletic-wear, also known as “e-textiles” – was developed by study lead, Lauren Taylor, and her team at the institution based in Houston, Texas.

These fit tightly against the skin, its conductive material performs the function of a continuous electrocardiogram, providing real-time monitoring of the wearer’s heart-rate.

Taylor explained: “The shirt has to be snug against the chest. In future studies, we will focus on using denser patches of carbon nanotube threads so there’s more surface area to contact the skin.”

The nanotube fibres are soft and flexible, and are also washing machine-friendly. It can stretch as much as a physically-active person would without breaking. Additionally, the woven electrodes convert the signal pulses into data that can be read via BlueTooth transmitters, as well as provide information via a smartphone app.

Taylor believes the wearable technology is “in the same position as solar cells were a few decades ago”, and could provide a vital launchpad for future sustainable materials with a multitude of functionalities.

Expect e-textiles to hit the shelves of your local retail store in the near future.