Wearable technology has opened the door to many exciting applications and has brought about the great technological revolution with much more advancement taking place at a fast pace. In the recent research conducted at Rice University, flexible carbon nanotube fibers have been developed to be woven into a fabric like t-shirt to keep gather accurate EKG and heart-rate readings of the wearer.
The nanotube fibers are soft and flexible and can be machine-sewn into the fabric just like a standard thread. The clothing that incorporates them is machine washable and the zigzag stitching pattern allows the fabric to stretch without breaking them. The fibers not only provide steady electrical contact with the wearer’s skin but also serve as electrodes to connect electronics like Bluetooth transmitters to relay data to a smartphone or connect to a Holter monitor that can be stowed in a user’s pocket.
The zigzag pattern of the fibers can be adjusted to account for how much a shirt or other fabric is likely to stretch. Fibers woven into fabric can also be used to embed antennas or LEDs. With minor modifications in the fibers’ geometry and associated electronics, clothing like t-shirt could monitor vital signs, force exertion, or respiratory rate. Other potential uses of the fiber could include human-machine interfaces for automobiles or soft robotics, or as antennas, health monitors, and ballistic protection in military uniforms.