Flexible TRACE sensor patches can be placed on the skin to measure blood flow in superficial arteries. (Credit: NUS)

Guided by the theory of contact mechanics, a team of researchers has developed a new sensor material that has significantly less hysteresis. This ability enables more accurate wearable health technology and robotic sensing.

The team developed a process to crack metal thin films into desirable ring-shaped patterns on a flexible material called polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). They integrated this metal/PDMS film with electrodes and substrates for a piezoresistive sensor and characterized its performance. The researchers conducted repeated mechanical testing and verified that their design innovation improved sensor performance. They say that their invention, named Tactile Resistive Annularly Cracked E-Skin, or TRACE, is five times better than conventional soft materials.

The team plans to further improve the conformability of their material for different wearable applications and to develop artificial intelligence (AI) applications based on the sensors. Their long-term goal is to predict cardiovascular health in the form of a tiny smart patch that is placed on human skin.

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