Chew­ing gum gets high-tech makeover as wear­able sen­sor

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

Wear­able tech­nolo­gies are sky­rock­et­ing in pop­u­lar­ity in both the con­sumer mar­ket and the med­i­cal field, used to track all sorts of health data, from heart rates to sleep cy­cles.

But the cur­rent crop of tech­nolo­gies re­lies pri­mar­ily on metal, which is highly sen­si­tive to move­ment, but doesn’t twist, bend or flex the way the hu­man body does. Plas­tics and sil­i­cone are more pli­able but aren’t as sen­si­tive.

Re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba may have found a so­lu­tion to that stick­ing point—chew­ing gum.

Chew­ing gum is ad­he­sive, mold­able and elas­tic (as any­one who’s ever stepped in it can at­test). And when it’s at­tached to car­bon nan­otube sen­sors, it might solve one of the prob­lems with the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of wear­able gad­gets.

Writ­ing in the jour­nal ACS Ap­plied Ma­te­ri­als & In­ter­faces, the au­thors de­scribed their ex­per­i­ment, chew­ing a piece of gum for 30 min­utes, wash­ing it in ethanol and let­ting it sit out overnight. They next ap­plied a so­lu­tion of car­bon nan­otubes—the sens­ing tech­nol­ogy—to the gum, which they evenly dis­trib­uted with some stretch­ing and fold­ing.

The re­searchers then tested their de­vice by at­tach­ing it to a fin­ger and to the throat. It ac­cu­rately de­tected fin­ger bends, as well as mo­tion from sneez­ing and deep breaths. It also re­sponded to changes in hu­mid­ity—a sur­prise find­ing that could have ap­pli­ca­tions for mon­i­tor­ing breath­ing.

And that’s some­thing to chew on.

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