Researchers create a soft, wearable health monitor

Researchers have created a wireless wearable health monitor that is built using stretchable electronics. The researchers think that the new wearable sensor could allow for comfortable, long-term monitoring of adults, babies, and small children without worrying about skin injury or allergic reactions caused by conventional adhesive sensors. Often traditional sensors tear fragile skin of very young and very old people when removed.

The wearable sensor can broadcast ECG, heart rate, respiratory rate, and motion activity as far as 15 meters to a portable recording device like a smartphone or tablet. The electronic portion of the sensor is mounted on a stretchable substrate and connected to gold electrodes that feature printed connectors that stretch with the medical films they are embedded into.

The team says that the stretchable sensors are a big deal for young children who are always moving since it is soft and conforms. The team designed the sensor specifically for those who have sensitive skin that may be harmed by conventional monitors. Another key feature of the new sensor is that since it conforms to the skin, it avoids signal issues that can be created by the motion of the typical metal-gel electrodes across the skin.

The team says that the wearable sensor is accurate enough for measuring signals from a person who is walking, running, or climbing stairs. Conventional electrodes are unable to monitor a person during activity due to motion artifact that ruins the signal quality. Since the sensor is wireless, it also means no big bundle of leads attached to the user's chest.

The comfort and freedom from wires means that the sensor can be worn in more situations and could detect changes that might not otherwise be recognized. The entire monitor is three inches in diameter and is powered by a small rechargeable battery. Eventually, the team hopes to replace that battery with an external radio-frequency charging system.