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Could elastic bands monitor patients’ breathing?

Revolutionary research stretches the limits of current healthcare by enabling medical professionals to measure their patients’ breathing, heart rate and movement with graphene elastic bands.

Research published in the journal ACS Nano identifies a new type of sensor that could monitor body movement and revolutionise the future of global healthcare.

Although body motion sensors already exist in different forms, they have not been widely used due to their complexity and cost of production. Now, scientists from the University of Surrey and Trinity College Dublin have for the first time treated common elastic bands with graphene, to create a flexible sensor that is sensitive enough for medical application.

Once treated, the rubber bands remain highly pliable. By fusing this material with graphene - which imparts an electromechanical response on movement – the material can be used as a sensor to measure a patient’s breathing, heart rate or movement, alerting doctors to any irregularities.

“Until now, no such sensor has been produced that meets these needs,” said Surrey’s Dr Alan Dalton. “It sounds like a simple concept, but our graphene-infused rubber bands could really help to revolutionise remote healthcare – and they’re very cheap to manufacture.”

Corresponding author, Professor Jonathan Coleman from Trinity College, Dublin commented, “This stretchy material senses motion such as breathing, pulse and joint movement and could be used to create lightweight sensor suits for vulnerable patients such as premature babies, making it possible to remotely monitor their subtle movements and alert a doctor to any worrying behaviours.

“These sensors are extraordinarily cheap compared to existing technologies. Each device would probably cost pennies instead of pounds, making it ideal technology for use in developing countries where there are not enough medically trained staff to effectively monitor and treat patients quickly.”

Read the full paper: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nn503454h

 

Why not explore Surrey’s Physics programmes and read about the experiences of current students.

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