‘Smart fabrics’ to monitor health, heart rates

December 11th, 2008 - 7:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 11 (IANS) Researchers are close to designing a simple, low-cost method to make “smart fabrics”, capable of detecting diseases, monitoring heart rates, and other vital signs. US and Chinese reseachers Nicholas A. Kotov, Chuanlai Xu and colleagues point out that electronic textiles, or e-textiles, already are a reality.

However, the current materials are too bulky, rigid, and complex for practical use. Fabric makers need simpler, more flexible materials to make e-fibres practical for future applications, they said.

The scientists described development of cotton fibres coated with electrolytes and carbon nanotubes (CNT) - thin filaments 1/50,000 the width of a single human hair, according to a release of the American Chemical Society.

The fibres are soft, flexible, and capable of transmitting electricity when woven into fabrics. In lab tests, researchers showed that the new e-fibres could light up a simple light-emitting diode when connected to a battery.

When coated with certain antibodies, the fibres detected the presence of albumin, a key protein in blood - a function that could be used to detect bleeding in wounded soldiers. The fabrics could also help monitor diseases and vital signs, they say.

The report was published in the Wednesday edition of Nano Letters.

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