Health Tech devices must accurately measure and report biometric markers in order to be useful. Because many of these applications function outside lab or clinical settings, less controlled environments require durability as well as accuracy. Material flexibility often matters as well, especially for the comfort and fit of wearable Health Tech devices.

Graphene, a thin layer of single carbon atoms, is the most stretchable, flexible sensor known, according to scientists who have created a new class of sensors based on graphene and another, equally stretchable substance. Professors Jonathan Coleman of Trinity College Dublin and Robert Young of the University of Manchester collaborated at the AMBER materials science research center to create a new form of durable, elastic sensor. The researchers added graphene to Silly Putty, the common children’s toy made of silicone polymer, to create extremely sensitive sensors capable of detecting impact, strain, stress, and temperature. Called G-putty, the material’s electrical resistance changes dramatically in response to physical changes. Referred to in a report about the research in Science, the graphene-polymer mixture has potential applications for health tech devices that can measure pulse, blood pressure, respiration, and impact.

G-Putty is so sensitive that it can detect the footsteps of a small spider. According to Coleman, they have created a strain sensor hundreds of times more sensitive than those typically in use today. This gain in sensitivity does not come at a great economic cost, however. G-putty opens the potential for durable, stretchable, extremely sensitive electromechanical sensors that are also inexpensive to manufacture.