Now, garments can directly monitor vital signs about health

Comfortable, form-fitting garments could be used to remotely track patients’ health.

MIT scientists have developed a sensor that can be attached to stretchy fabrics. The sensor-embedded garments, which are machine washable, can monitor vital signs such as temperature, respiration, and heart rate.

According to scientists, such type of sensing technology could be used for monitoring people who are ill, either at home or in the hospital, as well as athletes or astronauts.

“We can have any commercially available electronic parts embedded within the textiles that we wear every day, creating conformable garments,” says Canan Dagdeviren, the LG Electronics Career Development Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT.  Image: MIT
“We can have any commercially available electronic parts embedded within the textiles that we wear every day, creating conformable garments,” says Canan Dagdeviren, the LG Electronics Career Development Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT. Image: MIT

Scientists wanted to create garments more similar to the clothes we usually wear, using a stretchy fabric that has removable electronic sensors incorporated into it. However, in this case, the textile is not electrically functional. It’s just a passive element of our garment so that you can wear the devices comfortably and conformably during your daily activities.

For this study, the researchers designed a prototype shirt with 30 temperature sensors and an accelerometer that can measure the wearer’s movement, heart rate, and breathing rate. The garment can then transmit this data wirelessly to a smartphone.

Furthermore, scientists selected a polyester blend fabric because of its moisture-wicking properties and capability to conform to the skin.

The conformable garment ensures robust sensor-to-skin contact while keeping the clothing comfortable. A detachable wireless module allows you to easily charge and wash the garment.  Image: MIT
The conformable garment ensures robust sensor-to-skin contact while keeping the clothing comfortable. A detachable wireless module allows you to easily charge and wash the garment. Image: MIT

CananDagdeviren, the LG Electronics Career Development Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT, said, “From the outside, it looks like a normal T-shirt, but from the inside, you can see the electronic parts which are touching your skin. It compresses on your body, and the active parts of the sensors are exposed to the skin.”

Scientists tested their prototype shirts as wearers exercised at the gym. As sensors cover a large surface area of the body, scientists were able to observe temperature changes in different parts of the body, and how those changes correlate with each other.

Dagdeviren said“The shirts can be easily manufactured in different sizes to fit an array of ages and body types.”

Journal Reference:
  1. The paper is published in the journal npg Flexible Electronics.

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