A newly designed conductive thread could be a game changer in the fabrication and commercialization of wearable sensors.
Low-cost, compatible with existing sewing machines and machine-washable, the new thread, dubbed PECOTEX, was designed by researchers at Imperial College London and could be the next big thing in creating embedded wearable sensors. Such devices can be used in everything from monitoring sleep and exercise to diagnosing or assisting with medical conditions.
3 feet of PECOTEX thread costs $0.15, enough to create 10 sensors for integration into everyday clothing items such as Tshirts or face masks.
“The flexible medium of clothing means our sensors have a wide range of applications,” said first author Fahad Alshabouna. “They’re also relatively easy to produce which means we could scale up manufacturing and usher in a new generation of wearables in clothing.”
In tests of the novel material, the researchers embroidered sensors into a face mask to monitor a user’s breathing, into T-shirts for cardiac activity, and other textiles to identify potentially harmful gasses in the air, such as ammonia.
“PECOTEX is high-performing, strong, and adaptable to different needs,” said lead author Dr. Firat Guder. “It’s readily scalable, meaning we can produce large volumes inexpensively using both domestic and industrial computerized embroidery machines.”
Further research is expected on how this thread can be applied to the energy industry; specifically energy storage and harvesting, as well as how to scale up operations to make it commercially viable.