A new wearable sensor that uses silver nanowires to monitor electrophysiological signals like electrocardiography (EKG) or electromyography (EMG) has been developed by a team of researchers from North Carolina (NC) State University.
The new sensor is as accurate as the “wet electrode” sensors used in hospitals. The sensors are also compatible with standard EKG- and EMG-reading devices.
It can be used for long-term monitoring and is more accurate than existing sensors when a patient is moving.
“Our new electrode has better signal quality than most – if not all – of the existing dry electrodes. It is more accurate,” said Yong Zhu, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State.
“I think these sensors are essentially ready for use,” Zhu says “The raw materials of the sensor are comparable in cost to existing wet sensors, but we are still exploring ways of improving the manufacturing process to reduce the overall cost.”
In addition, the new electrode is mechanically robust because the nanowires are inlaid in the polymer, he added.
The new sensor is also more accurate than existing technologies at monitoring electrophysiological signals when a patient is in motion. The silver nanowire sensors conform to a patient’s skin, creating close contact.
“Because the nanowires are so flexible, the sensor maintains that close contact even when the patient moves. The nanowires are also highly conductive, which is key to the high signal quality,” Zhu said.
Meanwhile, long-term monitoring of electrophysiological signals can be used to track patient’s health or assist in medical research. However, it may also be used in the development of new powered prosthetics that respond to a patient’s muscular signals.
The study appeared in the journal RSC Advances.