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Graphene Flagship researchers from Trinity College Dublin, working with the National Graphene Institute (NGI) at the University of Manchester, have used graphene to make the novelty children's material Silly Putty® (polysilicone) conduct electricity. Using this conductive polymer, they found that they were able to create extremely sensitive sensors.

This research, led by Professor Jonathan Coleman, Trinity College Dublin, in collaboration with Professor Robert Young of the University of Manchester, potentially offers exciting possibilities for applications in new, inexpensive devices and diagnostics in healthcare and other sectors.

Professor Coleman, Investigator in AMBER and Trinity's School of Physics, along with postdoctoral researcher Conor Boland, discovered that the electrical resistance of putty infused with graphene (G-putty) was extremely sensitive to the slightest deformation or impact. They mounted the G-putty onto the chest and neck of human subjects and used it to measure breathing, pulse, and even blood pressure. It showed unprecedented sensitivity as a sensor for strain and pressure, hundreds of times more sensitive than current sensors. The G-putty also works as a very sensitive impact sensor, able to detect the footsteps of small spiders. It is believed that this material will find applications in a range of medical devices.

Professor Coleman said: "While a common application has been to add graphene to plastics in order to improve the electrical, mechanical, thermal, or barrier properties, the resultant composites have generally performed as expected without any great surprises. The behavior we found with G-putty has not been found in any other composite material. This unique discovery will open up major possibilities in sensor manufacturing worldwide."