A research team at the National University of Singapore has developed a soft, flexible microfiber sensor that can be used for healthcare monitoring and diagnosis. The sensor is ultrathin, like a strand of human hair.
Microfluidic devices using conductive liquid metals have been increasingly employed as wearable pressure and strain sensors. However, current devices do have various limitations — for instance, they may be uncomfortable to wear or not fit well on the skin.
Leader of the research team within the Department of Biomedical Engineering at NUS Faculty of Engineering, Professor Lim Chwee Teck commented in an article in Science Daily, “Our novel microfiber sensor can hardly be felt on the skin and conforms extremely well to skin curvatures. Despite being soft and tiny, the sensor is highly sensitive, and it also has excellent electrical conductivity and mechanical deformability. We have applied the sensor for real-time monitoring of pulse waveform and bandage pressure. The results are very promising.”
The smart microfiber sensor is made with a liquid metallic alloy, which serves as the sensing element, encapsulated within a soft silicone microtube.
The sensor measures an individual’s pulse waveform in real-time. Data can be used to determine heart rate, blood pressure and stiffness in blood vessels.
“As our sensor functions like a conductive thread, it can be easily woven into a glove which can be worn by doctors to track vital signs of patients in real-time. This approach offers convenience and saves time for healthcare workers, while patients can enjoy greater comfort,” pointed out Professor Lim.
The microfiber sensor could be beneficial for patients suffering from atherosclerosis, to detect plaque. It can also be used to treat ulcers to monitor bandage pressure.