WASHINGTON, DC — Wearable technology has exploded in recent years. Spurred by advances in flexible sensors, transistors, energy storage and harvesting devices, wearables include miniaturized electronic devices worn directly on the human skin to capture a range of biophysical and biochemical signals or, like smart watches, practical human-machine interfaces to provide .
Developing wearables for optimal skin adaptation, breathability and biocompatibility without compromising the adjustability of their mechanical, electrical and chemical properties is no easy task. The advent of electrospinning—the fabrication of polymer-based nanofibers with tunable properties—is an exciting development in the field.
in the APL Bioengineeringby AIP Publishing, researchers at Tufts University examined some of the latest advances in portable electronic devices and systems developed using electrospinning.
“We show how the scientific community has realized many remarkable things with electrospun nanomaterials,” said author Sameer Sonkusale. “They’ve used them to monitor physical activity, track movement, measure biopotentials, chemical and biological sensors, and even batteries, transistors, and antennas, among other things.”
Sonkusale and his colleagues demonstrate the many advantages that electrospun materials have over traditional bulk materials.
Their high surface-to-volume ratio gives them improved porosity and breathability, which is important for long-term wearability. Additionally, with the appropriate blend of polymers, they can achieve superior biocompatibility.
Conductive electrospun nanofibers provide high surface area electrodes, enabling both flexibility and performance improvements, including fast charging and high energy storage capacities.
“Also, their nanoscale properties ensure they adhere well to the skin without chemical adhesives, which is important if you’re interested in measuring biopotentials, such as E.g. heart activity with electrocardiography or brain activity with electroencephalography,” said Sonkusale.
Electrospinning is significantly cheaper and easier to use than photolithography to realize nanoscale transistor morphologies with superior electronic transport.
Researchers are confident that electrospinning will continue to emerge as a versatile, feasible, and inexpensive technique for manufacturing wearable devices in the years to come. They note that areas for improvement need to be considered, including expanding the range of materials and improving the ability to integrate with human physiology.
They propose improving the aesthetics of wearables by making them smaller and perhaps “almost invisible” through the inclusion of transparent materials.
– This press release was provided by the American Institute of Physics