Most health and medical tech devices rely on sensors. Advances in sensor technologies can significantly increase the value of biometric data by increasing sensitivity and accuracy. Any sensor improvement is a good thing, but the University of Sussex Materials Physics Group recently announced a doozy of an advance in strain sensor sensitivity. The Sussex development boosts strain sensing capabilities by 80 to 100 times the sensors on the market now.

The group coat polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) balls with graphene nanosheets. The balls are organized in a structured matrix. The resulting strain sensors can detect the weight of a feather.

The group published a paper in Advanced Functional Materials that details the process of incorporating the graphene in the matrix that gives it “excellent electromechanical properties,” according to a Sussex news release. According to one of the researchers, “this promising technology may prove especially useful in established fields such as healthcare, sports performance monitoring, and rapidly growing fields such as soft robotics.”

In healthcare, multiple sensors could be used across the body of a patient, connected wirelessly and communicating together to provide live, mobile health diagnostics at a fraction of the cost of current devices. They could be applied to pulse monitoring, chest motion, and joint bending among other medical applications.

Low-cost, accurate, real-time biometric data could play a vital role in remote patient monitoring, helping to identify disease and other conditions before symptoms even appear.