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Disposable Paper-based Composite Sensors to Monitor Human Behavior

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Published on : Feb 15, 2018

Since the past decade, sensor technology has been witnessing constant incremental advances driving innovation in diverse application areas. While a number of these have focused on improving their functionality, sensitivity, and design, significant research are also being made to make sensors inexpensive to use for smart wearable. Guided by nanotechnology, investigators across emerging and established markets are exploring the prospect of paper-based nanocomposites for designing inexpensive and flexible sensors. Engineers at the University of Washington have developed disposable wearable sensor made out of tissue paper that can detect a variety of human movements such as heartbeat and finger and eyeball movements. The technology is slated to have potentially useful applications in end-use industries such as entertainment, healthcare, and robotics.

The details of their work is published online in January, 2018 in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies. The largely inexpensive nature of the sensor engineered is considered a breakthrough by researchers.

Built Using Carbon Nanotubes, Sensor to have Potential Application in Entertainment, Healthcare, and Robotics.

The disposable sensor is made of paper-based nanostructured composites built using carbon nanotubes and is of the size of Band-Aid. The sensor could monitor a person's gait or their eye movements, shedding light on brain functions. This could prove promising in studying the behavior of special-needs child or can have application in designing occupation therapy programs for elderly. The engineers used controlled tensile fracture of the composite to confer sensitivity on the sensor. Made of normal tissue papers, the sensor is aligned with horizontal as well as vertical fibers, and in case of straightening, stiffening, or fracture of the fibers, appropriate signals are generated. In simple words, breaking the specimen turns paper-based nanostructured composites into sensors.

Presently, the work isn’t opened to commercial applications. However, a provisional patent was already filed in December last year. Research are underway to open the technology to commercial use in the not-so-distant future.