Textiles that can feel the movement of muscles are here

Using nanomagnetic composites and conductive yarn preparation, Chen Jun of the Department of Engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles, and others have invented a smart textile that can sense and measure body movements – from muscle flexion to venous pulsations. Self-powered, resilient, durable, waterproof, and sewing on a sewing machine for just a few dollars, the new device could help clinicians assess muscle damage and help patients recover. The study was recently published in the journal Matter.

This smart textile has a cloth-like texture and is made from a rubber block filled with a nanomagnet and about the size of two postage stamps. Using a sewing machine, the researchers coiled silver-plated conductive yarn onto the patch. Applying a mechanical force, such as tapping a finger, can change the magnetic field pattern inside the rubber, creating an electric current in the yarn. Force changes the magnetic field and magnetic flux changes to produce electricity, two phenomena known as the magnetoelastic effect and electromagnetic induction.

“Our equipment is very sensitive to biomechanical stress.” “The device, which converts muscle activity into quantifiable, high-fidelity electrical signals that can be sent wirelessly to a mobile app, has the potential to be used for personalized physical therapy and improved muscle injury rehabilitation,” Chen said. ”

The device is not only sensitive, but also precise, reflecting the movement of each muscle group in detail. The researchers installed the device in different body parts to clearly measure the movement of the throat when drinking water, the movement of the ankle when walking, and even monitor a person’s pulse on the wrist. When the device is attached to a person’s biceps, it can show whether the person is bending their arms or clenching their fists, as well as how much and how hard they are bent. Based on these types of information, clinicians can find appropriate thresholds, encourage moderate activity, and prevent excessive exercise, tailoring recovery exercise goals for patients.

Jun’s team also tested the device’s functionality. To simulate real-world conditions, such as excessive sweating and heavy rain, the team wet the device with water mist and tested its signal output. The results showed that the signal was still strong. In addition to being waterproof, the device is elastic and durable, extending it 3.5 times and withstanding 100,000 deformation cycles. In addition, the device is easy to manufacture and highly scalable, with an estimated cost of less than $3 per patch.

“Another highlight of the device is its self-powered nature.” Chen Jun said, “Converting biological power into electricity means that the device is also a generator. This eliminates the bulky and rigid battery packs typically required in wearable electronics. ”

Next, the team hopes to make the smart textile thinner and lighter to optimize the wearer’s experience. In 2021, Chen Jun’s team discovered the magnetoelastic effect in soft systems. They also plan to explore new ways to incorporate these findings into other wearable or implantable bioelectronics.

“We have tested the device for cardiovascular monitoring and respiratory monitoring.” Chen Jun said, “One day, we may improve devices such as ECG machines to make them smaller and more wearable. (Source: Feng Weiwei, China Science News)

New textiles can sense muscle movement Image source: Chen Jun et al

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