Silk Could Enhance Flexibility, Sensitivity of Wearable Body Sensors

From smart socks to exercise clothes that calculate exertion, wearable body sensors are turning out to be the newest "must-have" technology. Currently, Researchers report they are close to using silk, one of the world's most desirable fabrics, to develop a more flexible and sensitive generation of these multi-purpose devices that monitor a number of body functions in real time.

Silk could soon be used to produce more sensitive and flexible body sensors like this one. (Credit - Yingying Zhang)

The Researchers will showcase their work at the 254th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS, the largest scientific society in the world, is holding the meeting through this week. It features almost 9,400 presentations on a broad range of science topics.

There is a whole world of possibilities for silk sensors at the moment. Silk is the ideal material for fabricating sensors that are worn on the body. One possibility we foresee is for them to be used as an integrated wireless system that would allow doctors to more easily monitor patients remotely so that they can respond to their medical needs more rapidly than ever before.

Yingying Zhang, Ph.D.

Body sensors, which are typically composed of semiconductors, have displayed significant potential for monitoring human health. But they have limits. For example, strain sensors, which measure changes in force, cannot be extremely sensitive and very stretchable at the same time.

Silk, a natural material that is stronger than steel and more flexible than nylon, could overcome these issues. The fiber is also biocompatible and lightweight. However, silk does not conduct electricity properly. To resolve this hurdle, Zhang and colleagues at Tsinghua University in China aimed to find a way to increase the conductivity of silk so it could be productively used in body-sensing devices.

The Researchers planned to try two diverse strategies. In one method, they treated the silk in an inert gas environment with temperatures spanning from 1,112 °F to 5,432 °F. Consequently, the silk became infused with N-doped carbon with certain graphitized particles, which is electrically conductive. Using this method, the team has developed pressure sensors, strain sensors, and a dual-mode sensor that can measure temperature and pressure at the same time.

In the other method, the team fed either carbon nanotubes or graphene to silkworms. Some of these nanoparticles were naturally added into the silk formed by the worms. Thus far, this technique has not created electrically conductive fibers, but the Researchers continue experimenting with this method and are confident they can make it function.

Based on the groundwork results, Zhang is keen on exploring ways to develop an integrated set of silk-based, self-sustaining sensors that would be operated by nano-generators. She also proposes that her team's silk sensors might be used to construct more practical robots that can sense temperature, touch or humidity and can even differentiate between different people's voices.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this news story?

Leave your feedback
Your comment type
Submit
Azthena logo

AZoM.com powered by Azthena AI

Your AI Assistant finding answers from trusted AZoM content

Your AI Powered Scientific Assistant

Hi, I'm Azthena, you can trust me to find commercial scientific answers from AZoNetwork.com.

A few things you need to know before we start. Please read and accept to continue.

  • Use of “Azthena” is subject to the terms and conditions of use as set out by OpenAI.
  • Content provided on any AZoNetwork sites are subject to the site Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.
  • Large Language Models can make mistakes. Consider checking important information.

Great. Ask your question.

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.