Though only as thin as a strand of human hair, the smart flexible sensor is able to measure a patient’s pulse waveform in real-time. (Credit: National University of Singapore)

A soft, flexible, and stretchable microfiber sensor has been developed for real-time healthcare monitoring and diagnosis. The novel sensor is highly sensitive and ultra-thin with a diameter of a strand of human hair. It is also simple and cost-effective to mass produce.

The smart microfiber sensor comprises a liquid metallic alloy, which serves as the sensing element, encapsulated within a soft silicone microtube. The sensor measures an individual’s pulse waveform in real-time, and the information can be used to determine one’s heart rate, blood pressure, and stiffness in blood vessels.

Other applications include treatment of patients suffering from atherosclerosis as well as for the management of venous ulcers, which are caused by poor blood circulation.

Being ultra-thin and highly flexible, the microfiber sensor can be easily woven into bandages to monitor the pressure that is being delivered and maintained. This could potentially improve the effectiveness of the treatment and reduce the time required for healing. In the future, patients could also track the bandage pressure using an app, and the information could be shared with doctors who could remotely monitor the progress of the treatment.

While the researchers continue to explore new applications of the microfiber sensor, they are also keen to work with commercial partners to bring their novel sensor to market.