Taking inspiration from spider silk, researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed a method for creating sensors that can be invisibly printed onto various biological surfaces — for instance on a finger or a flower petal.

Inspired by the web structures created by spiders using minimal material, the fibers used to construct these sensors are roughly 50 times thinner than human hair — so much so that when they are applied to human skin, the fiber sensors will conform perfectly to the skin while also exposing sweat pores and thus remaining undetectable to the wearer.

Source: University of CambridgeSource: University of Cambridge

According to the researchers, the bioelectronic spider silk was spun from PEDOT:PSS, which is a biocompatible conducting polymer, and hyaluronic acid and polyethylene oxide. These fibers, which were produced from a water-based solution at room temperature, reportedly allow precise control over their so-called ‘spinnability.’

In the lab, the material was tested on various surfaces — including human fingers and dandelion seedheads — with the researchers suggesting that the bioelectronic fibers offered high-quality sensor performance while also remaining imperceptible to the wearer.

“We want bioelectronics that are completely imperceptible to the user, so they don’t in any way interfere with how the user interacts with the world, and we want them to be sustainable and low waste,” explained the researchers

Such bioelectronic sensors could potentially be used in assorted applications, ranging from health monitoring and virtual reality to precision agriculture and environmental monitoring.

An article detailing the spider silk inspired material, “Imperceptible augmentation of living systems with organic bioelectronic fibres,” appears in the journal Nature Electronics.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com