Researcher from Queen Mary University and the University of Sussex developed smart wearables with materials inspired by molecular gastronomy that outperform similar gadgets in terms of stretch sensitivity.
The researchers mixed graphene with seaweed to create nanocomposite microcapsules for highly adaptable and durable epidermal electronics. When linked together, the tiny capsules can capture real-time muscle measurements, breathing, pulse, and blood pressure with pinpoint accuracy.
Currently, much of the research on nanocomposite-based sensors is focused on unsustainable materials. Consequently, when these devices fall into disuse, they contribute to plastic waste.
The combination of molecular gastronomy theory and biodegradable materials could be used to produce devices that are not only environmentally friendly but also have the potential to outperform conventional ones, according to a new study just published in Advanced Functional Materials.
The scientists developed a graphene capsule consisting of a layer of dense graphene seaweed/gel wrapped around a liquid graphene ink core using salt and seaweed, two ingredients often found in the restaurant industry. With layers of dense seaweed/raspberry jam around a liquid jam core, Michelin-starred restaurants take a similar approach when serving capsules.
However, unlike molecular gastronomy capsules, graphene capsules are very sensitive to pressure; consequently, when compressed or squeezed, their electrical properties change significantly.
Therefore, they can function as highly efficient strain sensors and make it possible to create smart wearable devices on the skin for highly precise real-time readings of vital signs and biomechanics.
By introducing a breakthrough blend of culinary arts and cutting-edge nanotechnology, we are harnessing the extraordinary properties of newly created graphene-seaweed microcapsules that are redefining the possibilities of wearable electronics. Our inventions offer a powerful framework for scientists to reinvent wearable nanocomposite technology for high-precision health diagnostics, while our commitment to recyclable and biodegradable materials is fully aligned with environmentally conscious innovation.
dr. Dimitrios Papageorgiou, Lecturer, Materials Science, Queen Mary University of London
This research is now being used as a model by other laboratories to understand and modify the strain-sensing characteristics of related materials, enhancing the idea of nano-based wearable devices.
Human livelihoods are seriously affected by the environmental impact of plastic waste; therefore, future plastic-based epidermal electronics need to shift to more sustainable practices.
The use of recyclable and biodegradable materials in the manufacture of these capsules can impact how wearable sensing devices are perceived and how their presence is perceived.
Dr. Papageorgiou, “We are also very proud of the collaborative effort between Dr Conor Boland’s group from the University of Sussex and my group from Queen Mary University of London that sparked this groundbreaking research. This partnership exemplifies the power of scientific collaboration, bringing together diverse expertise to push the boundaries of innovation.”
aljaric, aka, et al. (2023) Smart Skin Based on Piezoresistive Tissue Assemblies of Continuous Graphene Microcapsules for High-Precision Health Diagnostics. Advanced Functional Materials. doi:10.1002/adfm.202303837.