Researchers at the University of Manitoba in Canada have created a stretchable, wearable strain sensor by combining the rolled sheets of bound carbon atoms called carbon nanotubes with a stick of bubble gum.
Malcolm Xing and his colleagues say the material is sensitive and can accurately detect strains up to 530 percent.
They tested it as a body motion sensor, and were able to monitor movement as small as what occurs when a person slowly breathes.
The team made the material by chewing up a piece of Wrigley’s Doublemint gum for 30 minutes, washing it in ethanol and water overnight and then adding a solution that contained multiwalled carbon nanotubes.
The gum was then folded in the same direction over 500 times to evenly distribute the conductive material.
Then they tested it out on different body parts and saw that it reliably provided accurate measurements of strain and humidity changes.
Much of the technology needed to unlock the quantified self, where sensors and computers monitor and analyze a wearer’s daily life and real-time health stats, already exists. One of the sticking points, though, (pun intended) is figuring out the actual interface between the computer and the human.
A number of high-profile projects are underway, including researchers making sensors out offlexible polymers, sticky temporary tattoos and smart fabrics.
Xing and his team say that, at least as far as strain sensing is concerned, their gum-based material might have them all beat.
“A facile approach to prepare an elastic, attachable, low cost, and conductive membrane was presented which can be efficiently used for sensing muscle and joint motions,”
“Since the gum sensor can be patterned into various forms, it has wide applications in miniaturized sensors and biochips.
To the best of our knowledge…the current sensor introduces results superior to those of any other strain sensors.”