Biosensor technology advances widen the range of health and medical applications. Improvements in sensor accuracy, composite sensors, wireless data transmission, power requirements, and user comfort extend wearable tech capabilities for continuous monitoring of chronic conditions. Advanced sensors also enhance other solutions such as prosthetics that replace or enhance human functions and capacities. We wrote recently about non-invasive biosensors on chips, a biosensor that detects genetic mutations, and developments at the University of Texas at Arlington with smart skin that uses embedded nanotubes to detect toxins.

Engineers at the University of Delaware use nanotubes to create a smart composite coating or film that detects pressure. Erik Thostenson, an associate professor at the University of Delaware Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering envisions the coating stitched into garments or added as layers in the soles of footwear in order to detect human motion. When pressure is applied to the nanotubes, they release a measurable electrical charge. According to Thostenson in a report in the journal ACS Sensors, the nanotube sensors can detect force “ranging from touch to tons.” Comparing the film to a dye, Thostenson also says the electrical-sensing coating applies uniformly and bonds to fabric or fiber, making the tech scalable for a wide range of applications.

Because the nanotube coating doesn’t restrict motion or add any discomfort, user resistance would be minimized. Whether used to improve athletic performance by assessing motion, to assist rehabilitation, or to restore mobility to minimally-functional limbs, pressure-sensitive garments have a wide range of potential applications.