Heart rate monitor device made of nanotube fibres sewn into activewear

Service Engineering

Lauren Taylor, a graduate of Rice University, demonstrated how a t-shirt made of carbon nanotube thread could measure heart rate continuously for the person wearing it.

Nanotube fibres have the same conductivity as traditional metal wires; however, these are flexible, comfortable, less brittle and washable.

“We worked with somebody who sells little machines designed to make ropes for model ships. He was able to make us a medium-scale device that does the same“

It has been rumoured that during experiments, the carbon nanotube has performed higher at monitoring heart rate and collecting data compared to the current method using a chest-strap monitor. If you compare the medical electrode monitors to this innovation, the carbon nanotube shirt experienced marginally better results on the electrocardiograph.

In a statement, Taylor said that the shirt fibres work to create steady electrical interaction with the skin and can link electronics such as Bluetooth transmitters; this transfers the information onto a phone or Holter monitor kept in the patient's pocket.

There is also the option to use fibres differently. For example, to set in antennas or light-emitting diodes. Making small modifications to the structure of the fibres and the connected electronics can pave the way for clothing articles to monitor vital signs, respiratory rate and more.

Lead author of the study, Lauren Taylor, said that “The shirt has to be snug against the chest. In future studies, we will focus on using denser patches of carbon nanotube threads so there’s more surface area to contact the skin.”

“We worked with somebody who sells little machines designed to make ropes for model ships. He was able to make us a medium-scale device that does the same.”

“We demonstrated with a collaborator a few years ago that carbon nanotube fibres are better at dissipating energy on a per-weight basis than Kevlar, and that was without some of the gains that we’ve had since in tensile strength,” she said.

Biomolecular engineer Matteo Pasquali said, “We see that, after two decades of development in labs worldwide, this material works in more and more applications. Because of the combination of conductivity, good contact with the skin, biocompatibility and softness, carbon nanotube threads are a natural component for wearables.”

See all the latest jobs in Service Engineering
Return to news