Fabrics that transmit biomedical data

December 5, 2014

Smart fabric is durable, malleable, and can be woven with cotton or wool. Horizontal lines are antennas. (Credit: Stepan Gorgutsa, Universite Laval)

Canadian researchers have developed “smart textiles” able to monitor and transmit wearers’ biomedical information via wireless or cellular network by superimposing multiple layers of copper, polymers, glass, and silver.

“The fiber acts as both sensor and antenna. It is durable but malleable, and can be woven with wool or cotton, and signal quality is comparable to commercial antennas,” explained Professor Younes Messaddeq at Université Laval’s Faculty of Science and Engineering and Centre for Optics, Photonics and Lasers.

“The surface of the fiber can also be adjusted to monitor a range of information, such as glucose levels, heart rhythm, brain activity, movements, and spatial coordinates.”

The design uses hollow-core polymer-clad silica fibers that can withstand high tensile and bending stresses, high-temperature operation (350 °C), and mechanical abrasion and harsh environmental exposure (heat-humidity tests, water, detergent, acids) compatible to most textiles applications, due to the thick polyimide polymer overcoat.

Bio-sensing multi-material fibers weaved into textiles can be used for health and life-science applications via wireless networks (credit: Stepan Gorgutsa, Universite Laval)

The research is described in a recent article (open access) in the scientific journal Sensors.

Abstract of Novel Wireless-Communicating Textiles Made from Multi-Material and Minimally-Invasive Fibers

The ability to integrate multiple materials into miniaturized fiber structures enables the realization of novel biomedical textile devices with higher-level functionalities and minimally-invasive attributes. In this work, we present novel textile fabrics integrating unobtrusive multi-material fibers that communicate through 2.4 GHz wireless networks with excellent signal quality. The conductor elements of the textiles are embedded within the fibers themselves, providing electrical and chemical shielding against the environment, while preserving the mechanical and cosmetic properties of the garments. These multi-material fibers combine insulating and conducting materials into a well-defined geometry, and represent a cost-effective and minimally-invasive approach to sensor fabrics and bio-sensing textiles connected in real time to mobile communications infrastructures, suitable for a variety of health and life science applications.