Graphene material prints wearable medical devices with 50 times more sensitivity

Researchers in Ireland have invented a technology to create medical pressure-sensitive devices, which print pressure-sensitive materials on medical supplies like Band-Aids that are applied to the body to monitor signs.

Pressure-sensitive devices have a wide range of medical applications, such as measuring pulse rates and detecting changes in swallowing ability in stroke patients. Pressure sensitive devices convert the small mechanical changes sensed into a proportional current signal and display it as an electronic reading output. Common pressure-sensing devices on the market today are generally made of metal foil, which is not convenient for patients to wear and has limited versatility and sensitivity.

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, have added graphene to play-doh to make a printable ink that can be printed on a Band-Aid with a printer, providing pressure-sensitive measurement in just a thin layer. To use it, simply apply it to human skin.

The researchers said that the rubber band-aid is low cost and graphene conducts electricity well. This technology makes a resilient and low-cost sensing device that will bring a change to medical wearables.

They estimate that this new device can be about 50 times more sensitive and more flexible than many similar nano-sensors available today.

What’s more, this ink can be adjusted to create a variety of viscosities for printing technology. Different ink formulations have different sensitivities and can be customized to meet the different needs of sensitivity for different medical applications.

The study describes a number of applications they are considering, such as monitoring breathing, pulse, joint movement, gait, or signs of premature birth during pregnancy.

The study was published April 15 in the nanobiology journal SMALL.