The graphene emulsion in the tube senses slight changes in pulse and respiration rates. (Credit: University of Sussex)

A new wearable technology would enable sick babies to be monitored remotely. And parents at home, concerned about the risk of cot death, could keep track of their new babies’ heart and breathing rates with automatic updates to their smartphones, using fitness tracker-style technology built into baby sleep suits.

The unobtrusive sensors – the most sensitive liquid-based devices to have ever been developed – could also be transformative for anyone with life-threatening conditions such as sleep apnea. In addition, because graphene is cheap to produce, the new breakthrough should be affordable.

Researchers have created a liquid made from an emulsion of graphene, water, and oil, which conducts electricity. A prototype has been created and the team is talking to commercial sponsors to fund further research so that the product can be brought to market.

Because the new liquid technology is so sensitive, it picks up very small signals when attached to the body. This new type of conductive liquid is very sensitive to being stretched. When the graphene particles are assembled around the liquid droplets, electrons can hop from one particle to the next; this is why the whole liquid is conductive. When the sensors are stretched, this moves the graphene particles further apart and makes it much harder for the electrons to hop across the system.