Advancements in Wearable Electronic Technology Could Disrupt Both Medicine and Sport

By: Kuljit Grewal  |   August 13th, 2012   |   Health, Living, News, Sports

Imagine a highly skilled surgeon being able to apply a thin flexible sleeve to a patients beating heart in order to monitor the organ as accurately as possible in real time. Thanks to a cross-culture research team from three universities in two countries, the ability to do so is within grasp.


The technology that would allow the above as well as surgical gloves that would eventually allow surgeons to make incisions and remove growths simply with the touch of their finger is called wearable electronics, and it has required a tremendous amount of research and commitment.


According to a material engineer associated with the project the biggest obstacle has to do with transforming high tech requisite silicon, which by nature is extremely hard and brittle into a flexible and fluid material.


As reported by Mashable, the engineers from the University of Illinois, Northwestern University and China’s Dalian University of Technology had to think outside the box to make their brilliant concept a reality. They eventually did so by separating the silicon into incredibly thin “nanomembranes” which are 10,000 times thinner than a human hair. These fibres were then molded into waves and combined with a flexible rubber membrane that allowed the silicon fibres to be bent, twisted and wrapped around anything.


The technology and design are ideal for medicine, with the aforementioned heart monitoring “socks” having been tested. The technology breakthrough could eventually lead to surgeons being able to read and analyse the electricity they feel in their patient’s heart.


Although any advancement that can benefit the human race should be applauded, we are more likely to see the research team’s wearable electronic technology in another big money field; sports.  The team behind the tech and design have created a start-up called MC10 which has a joint venture with athletic company Reebok. Their technology will be integrated into clothing and wearables that analyse and monitor hydration, temperature and stress to optimize performance and athletic training. It could also analyse information from the cardiac system, muscle activation, gait and speed metrics  in real time. Commercial products are expected to be unveiled later this year and should be incredibly successful.

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