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All sewn up

Published by The Economist on Thu, 21 Jul 2016


WEARABLE and implantable medical gadgets are a promising technology. By continuously collecting information from patients they make it easier to diagnose and treat whatever the problem may be. But most of the sensors in such devices have to lie flat against the body. That limits what they can do.Now a team of researchers are trying to use one of humanity's oldest technologies to do better. As they report in Microsystems & Nanoengineering, Sameer Sonkusale at Tufts University, in Massachusetts, and his colleagues, propose to turn threads, of the sort spun to make clothes, into sensors.Thread has many advantages. It is cheap, flexible and mostly tolerated by human bodies. Most pertinently, doctors have plenty of experience, via the practice of suturing, of sewing it into bodily tissues. Doing that with smart thread would allow a more detailed overview of what is happening than any skin-mounted sensor could.Turning yarn into sensors requires clever chemistry. Electrodes for recording mechanical or chemical activity can be...Continue reading
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