Current methods of tracking muscle activity come down to detecting their electrical activity, which in most cases involves sticking electrodes directly to the skin. However, scientists have developed a special conductive material that can completely replace these sensors, and in addition is washable.
This conductive material monitors muscle activity without sensors
In search of a cheaper, more convenient and reliable alternative to traditional electrodes, a team led by Professor Huanan Zhang of the University of Utah began with cotton and polyester fabrics. It was on it that he applied a microscopic layer of silver, which is responsible for conducting electricity. Its toxicity to human skin was eliminated with the use of an additional layer of gold.
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In the practical test, the silver-gold coating hit selected areas of the said material band, which was then applied to the volunteer’s forearm. Electrical cables were routed from the covered areas of clothing to an already traditional portable electromyography device. As the person performed various activities, the sleeve accurately detected the electrical signals produced by the muscles of the forearm as they contracted. Additionally, the coated areas retained their functionality through fifteen washing cycles in a conventional washing machine.
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The future of this material? First of all, further development and refinement. There is also hope that, with further development, the technology will be able to be used not only in sleeves, but also in other garments that fit tightly to the skin. These could find application in areas such as rehabilitation medicine, health monitoring and athletics (via New Atlas).