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New Wearable Technology Uses Nanofibers to Monitor Patient Health

A pair of socks to monitor cholesterol levels or a shirt to track blood pressure could soon become a reality.

Microfiber- and nanofiber-based wearable technology can be used to monitor a patient’s vital signs at all times. Image Credit: National University of Singapore

Scientists explore the use of microfibers, and even smaller nanofibers, as wearable monitors to monitor a patient’s vital signs. Details of the research have been published in Applied Physics Reviews, by AIP Publishing.

The microfiber- and nanofiber-based technology deals with the increasing concerns in the medical community about tracking prolonged illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure as the population ages.

Therefore, the demand for a personalized health care system which detects users’ bio-signals at any given location and time is rapidly growing.

Rituparna Ghosh, Study Author, National University of Singapore

The wearable fibers are very sensitive and flexible and can be used to measure heart rate, blood pressure, sleep quality, oxygen levels, cholesterol levels, and other vital signs. Due to their small size, they can be placed directly on the skin or woven into garments like shirts, neckwear, socks, or wristbands.

You could have watches. You could have tattoos. It is usable in almost any form. You could have something like a face mask. It could be a handkerchief which you put on your wrist and it starts giving data.

Rituparna Ghosh, Study Author, National University of Singapore

According to Seeram Ramakrishna, another author of the study from the National University of Singapore, piezoelectric sensors, which are driven by mechanical energy, are one of the most potential nanofiber technologies that could be commercialized within three years.

He added that other technologies may be available for public use in about five to eight years.

Ramakrishna noted that from time to time, more studies must be performed to make the fiber sensors more durable to enable repeated use, as well as to develop a power source for them that is both portable and dependable. It will also require some time to assure the medical community that the technology is precise and that its data can be relied on for use with patients in the real-world.

The medical community is always skeptical, while the wellness industry already is using these concepts. We need a lot more cause-and-effect studies. We need to amass information so doctors will really accept that this is information they can rely on.

Seeram Ramakrishna, Study Author, National University of Singapore

The worldwide market value of wearable technology was projected to be over $32 billion in 2019 and is predicted to increase to as much as $74 billion by 2025 as new applications continue to materialize.

Journal Reference

Ghosh, R., et al. (2020) Micro/nanofiber-based noninvasive devices for health monitoring diagnosis and rehabilitation. Applied Physics Reviews.

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