Researchers at Université Laval in Canada have developed “smart textiles” able to monitor and transmit wearers’ biomedical information via wireless or cellular networks.
Credit: Stepan Gorgutsa, Université Laval
This technological breakthrough, described in the scientific journal Sensors, paves the way for a host of new developments for people suffering from chronic diseases, elderly people living alone, and even firemen and police officers. A team under the supervision of Professor Younès Messaddeq created the smart fabric by successfully superimposing multiple layers of copper, polymers, glass and silver.
“The fibre acts as both sensor and antenna,” explains Professor Messaddeq, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Photonic Innovations. “It is durable but malleable, and can be woven with wool or cotton. And signal quality is comparable to commercial antennas.” The surface of the fibre can also be adjusted to monitor a range of information such as glucose levels, heart rhythm, brain activity, movements and spatial coordinates.
The design is based on hollow-core polymer-clad silica fibres, featuring a thick polyimide polymer overcoat. This enables it to withstand high tensile and bending stresses, mechanical abrasion, extreme heat conditions (up to 350°C), humidity, water, detergent or acidic environments. A patent application has already been filed, though certain elements still need to be fine-tuned before the innovation is ready for commercialisation.
“Of course, the technology will have to be connected to a wireless network – and there is the issue of power supply to be solved,” notes Messaddeq. “We have tested a number of solutions, and the results are promising.”