Although traditional electrodes do provide accurate readings, they are expensive and uncomfortable, and they may fall off as the wearer moves-the latter is definitely a problem if you are trying to monitor the performance of an athlete.
In order to find cheaper, more comfortable and more reliable alternatives, the team led by Professor Zhang Huanan from the University of Utah first deposited a layer of microscopic silver on ordinary cotton/polyester blended fabrics.
Although silver is conductive, it can also be toxic to human skin. For this reason, the team added an equally thin and flexible layer of gold to the silver. This not only prevents the silver from directly contacting the wearer, but also improves the overall conductivity of the material. Although a thicker pure gold layer can also work, combining it with lower-priced silver can help keep costs below the level of traditional electrodes.
In a technical test, a silver/gold coating was applied to selected areas of a compression sleeve. The sleeve was then placed on the volunteer’s forearm, and the wire was connected from the coated area of the clothing to the portable EMG device.
When the person subsequently performed different actions, the sleeves accurately detected the electrical signals produced by the muscles of the forearm when they contracted. In addition, in the sleeves in the ordinarywashing machineAfter 15 washing cycles, the coated area still maintains its function.
Now scientists hope that, once further developed, the technology can be applied not only to sleeves, but also to other fitting clothing such as socks and tights. These can be used in fields such as rehabilitation medicine, health monitoring, and sports.
This research was recently published inAPL MaterialsIt is described in a paper in the magazine.