In order for a wearable fitness or health device to be helpful, it needs to gather data about the user who is wearing it. One of the key challenges in this area is to create materials that can collect information over a relatively large area, that are sufficiently sensitive and accurate, and that are inexpensive to produce. As reported in Printed Electronics World, researchers at the Suzhou Institute of Nanotech and Nanobionics published an article in the journal Advanced Materials describing a new design for a bionic sensors.
The scientists developed a way to pattern plastic film using silk fibers, which create microstructures that can hold sensing nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes (CNT). The result is a low-cost, large area sensor that can accurately measure very small changes in pressure. It is also thin, lightweight, and flexible, so it is well suited for conforming to a person’s wrist or other part of the body. The material is so sensitive that it can detect the difference between the steps of an ant and a honeybee, with a 10 ms response time.