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December 17, 2015

Could graphene be the ultimate breakthrough for wearables?

News: Material opens doors for smart monitoring skin and could also be printed onto clothes.


Wearable devices could gain a new boost by using graphene due to its highly-conductive and ultra-flexible features.

In a whitepaper, a group of University of Manchester academics shows that cheap, flexible, wireless graphene communication devices such as mobile phones and healthcare monitors can be directly printed into clothing and even skin.

Researchers believe that by using the material, manufacturers could pave the way for smart, battery-free healthcare and fitness monitoring, phones, internet-ready devices and chargers to be incorporated into clothing and ‘smart skin’ applications.

The ‘smart skin’ idea would involve the use of printed graphene sensors integrated with other 2D materials stuck onto a patient’s skin to monitor temperature, strain and moisture levels.

Academics said graphene is the world’s thinnest, strongest and most conductive material. They define it as "perfect for the wearables market because of its broad range of superlative qualities".

Graphene conductive ink can be cheaply mass produced and printed onto various materials, including clothing and paper, the whitepaper suggests.

During the research, a team from the university printed graphene to construct transmission lines and antennas and experimented with these in communication devices.

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Using a mannequin, they attached graphene-enabled antennas on each arm. The devices were able to talk to each other, effectively creating an on-body communications system.

Dr Zhirun Hu, project leader, School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said: "This is a significant step forward – we can expect to see a truly all graphene enabled wireless wearable communications system in the near future.

"The potential applications for this research are huge – whether it be for health monitoring, mobile communications or applications attached to skin for monitoring or messaging.

"This work demonstrates that this revolutionary scientific material is bringing a real change into our daily lives."


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