A sensory glove uses flexible polymers and carbon fiber. (Credit: University of Groningen)

Scientists have created wearable, stitchable, and sensitive sensors from flexible polymers and bundles of carbon fiber. The sensors respond to pressure and can measure body position and movement. They could be used to measure disease progress in Parkinson’s disease, or sense joint movement in athletes, for example.

The researchers used electrospun carbon fibers for the sensors. The fibers are piezoresistive, which means that their conductivity changes when they are stretched. Sensors are made by embedding the fibers in a flexible elastomer in a perpendicular pattern, creating pixels where two fibers cross. The material can be stitched, whereby it is possible to use conductive yarn that can act as an electrode. The sensors can therefore be integrated into everyday clothing or gloves or applied as patches on joints. They can measure bending movements, but they are also sensitive to pressure.

The researchers are testing the sensors in a rehabilitation centre for Parkinson’s disease patients. The sensors are being used to monitor the deterioration of patients’ gait over time .

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