Chewing Gum Based Smart Sensors For Greater Flexibility of Wearables

Smart watches, fitness trackers and other wearables are continuously changing as their in-built smart sensors become more versatile, from monitoring user heart rate to allowing gesture control. But you can look forward to even greater flexibility with the introduction of a new sensor design combining used chewing gum with carbon nanotubes.

Scientists have created a sensing device that is capable of picking up movements of the more flexible parts of the body, such as a bent finger.

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Smart Sensors

Discreet and flexible sensors have been incorporated in all kinds of wearable devices, giving users access to a wealth of information on their sleeping habits, movements, and other personal data. Despite their adaptability, wearable devices have one serious flaw: their stiffness. In other words, they easily stop functioning when bent, pulled, or twisted the wrong way.

So, the incorporation of sensors that can withstand contortions in a myriad of shapes could signal a significant advance in wearable technology. Other researchers have resulted to using soft rubbers and silicones in search of greater flexibility.

But the solution developed by scientists from the University of Manitoba promises to offer greater sensitivity. At the beginning, one of the researchers chewed away on a piece of standard gum for 30 minutes, cleaned it with ethanol, and then left it to sit overnight. A carbon nanotubes solution – containing the sensing element – was then applied to the gum.

The result was a highly sensitive sensor that was capable of retaining its functionality in head-turning and finger-bending tests, even when strained by 530 percent. The researchers also found that the unusual mix could also track humidity in the air – an element that the team believes could be used to monitor breathing from the water vapour in exhaled air.

View the sensor in action below:

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