An electrically conductive liquid derived from an emulsion of graphene, water and oil has been used to design wearable health monitors for deployment in resource-limited areas.
Researchers from University of Sussex, UK, developed the health monitor after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation called for new affordable wearable health technologies for babies in underdeveloped areas.
Ailing infants could be monitored remotely with the device, enabling parents to track their new babies’ heart and breathing rates with automatic updates to their smartphones by use of fitness tracker style technology built into baby sleep suits. The sensitive liquid-based sensors might also benefit anyone with life-threatening conditions such as sleep apnea.
When a channel or tube containing the emulsion is stretched, even by a small amount, the liquid’s conductivity changes and enables the respiration rates and pulses of people wearing the device to be tracked.
Current infant health monitors require attachment of clunky wired sensors, which can fall off or restrict the user’s movement, to the patient’s hands or feet. The new technology can support wirless, non-invasive monitoring with a wrist-band, or by embedding the sensors into clothing.
"I came up with the idea for the new graphene emulsion at the core of this technology while making salad dressing – which is a type of emulsion – at home with my daughter," said Professor Alan Dalton, from the School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences. "It’s amazing how, as scientists, we take inspiration from the everyday world around us. Graphene is very affordable as it can be produced using naturally occurring graphite, so this could be rolled out on a big scale. This is good news for health services because the new technology will not be expensive to make and buy. It also means it should be affordable to individuals.”