Cell scaffold blood-brain-barrier. (Credit: A. Marino/ Smart Bio-Interfaces, IIT Pontedera)

Engineers have turned tissue paper into a new kind of wearable sensor that can detect a pulse, a blink of an eye, and other human movement. The sensor is light, flexible, and inexpensive, with potential applications in healthcare and robotics.

The technology shows that by tearing tissue paper that’s loaded with nano-composites and breaking the paper’s fibers, the paper acts as a sensor. It can detect a heartbeat, finger force, finger movement, eyeball movement, and more.

Healthcare applications might include monitoring a person’s gait or the movement of their eyes to inspect brain function, tracking how a special-needs child walks in a home test, or monitoring seniors in occupational therapy.

The conventional paper towels were doused with carbon nanotube-laced water. Each piece of tissue paper has both horizontal and vertical fibers, so when the paper is torn, the direction of the tear informs the sensor of what’s happened. To trace eye movement, they’re attached to a person’s reading glasses.

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Medical Design Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the April, 2018 issue of Medical Design Briefs Magazine.

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