Graphene and Rubber Bands Could Revolutionize Health Monitoring

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

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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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