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Graphene and Rubber Bands Could Revolutionize Health Monitoring

Researchers infuse graphene into elastic bands making a cheap and effective strain sensor

1 min read
A close up look at a pile of multicolor rubber bands of many sizes.
Photo: Getty Images

One of graphene’s most attractive properties is its flexibility. It’s this property that has led researchers to consider using it to replace for indium tin oxide (ITO) in the electrodes of organic solar cells. Researchers at the University of Surrey and Trinity College may have found another use for that flexibility—adding graphene to rubber bands to give elastics electronic properties and using the combination for health monitoring.

In research published in the journal ACS Nano,  the researchers explain a simple process for infusing graphene into elastic bands such that they become extremely sensitive strain sensors.

The researchers claim that the sensors are extremely cheap to produce and could be used as wearable sensors for monitoring a patient's breathing, heart rate, or irregular movements.

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

Professor Jonathan Coleman from Trinity College, Dublin added: “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 behaviors.”

The researchers have already tested the graphene-infused elastic bands for measuring joint and muscle motion as well and breathing and pulse.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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