Electrospinning promises major improvements in wearable technology

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WASHINGTON, DC — Wearable technology has exploded in recent years. Spurred by advances in flexible sensors, transistors, energy storage and harvesting devices, wearables encompass miniaturized electronic devices worn directly on human skin to sense a range of biophysical and biochemical signals or, as with smart watches, to provide convenient man-machine interfaces. .

Designing wearables for optimal skin compliance, breathability and biocompatibility without compromising the tunability of their mechanical, electrical and chemical properties is no small task. The emergence of electrospinning – the fabrication of nanofibers with tunable properties from a polymer base – is an exciting development in the field.

In APL Bioengineeringby AIP Publishing, Tufts University researchers looked at some of the latest advances in portable electronic devices and systems developed using electrospinning.

“We show how the scientific community has achieved many remarkable things using electrospun nanomaterials,” said author Sameer Sonkusale. “They’ve applied them for physical activity monitoring, motion tracking, biopotential measurement, chemical and biological sensing, and even batteries, transistors, and antennas, among others.”

Sonkusale and colleagues present the many advantages of electrospun materials over conventional bulk materials.

Their high surface-to-volume ratio gives them increased porosity and breathability, which is important for long-term wearability. Additionally, with the proper blend of polymers, they can achieve superior biocompatibility.

Conductive electrospun nanofibers provide large surface area electrodes, allowing for both flexibility and performance enhancements, including fast charging and high energy storage capabilities.

“Furthermore, their nanoscale characteristics mean that they adhere well to the skin without the need for chemical adhesives, which is important if you are interested in measuring biopotentials, such as cardiac activity by electrocardiography or brain activity by electroencephalography,” Sonkusale said.

Electrospinning is considerably less expensive and more user-friendly than photolithography for achieving nanoscale transistor morphologies with superior electron transport.

The researchers are confident that electrospinning will further establish its claim as a versatile, feasible, and inexpensive technique for manufacturing wearable devices in years to come. They note that there are areas for improvement to consider, including expanding the choice of materials and improving the ease of integration with human physiology.

They suggest that the aesthetics of wearables can be improved by making them smaller and, perhaps, with the incorporation of transparent, “almost invisible” materials.

– This press release was provided by the American Institute of Physics

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