Self-powering Patch Can Monitor Muscle Moves and It Costs Less Than $3

Self-powering Patch Can Monitor Muscle Moves and It Costs Less Than $3

Smart textiles and patches are coming in thick and fast, from wound-monitoring and healing bandages, to heartrate-measuring thread woven into fabric. The latest in this burgeoning field of medical therapies is one that impressively keeps an eye on your muscles in real time.

Scientists from the University of Los Angeles, California (UCLA) have designed a waterproof, durable, stretchable, and importantly, scalable patch – each can be made for less than US$3 – that promises a wide range of musculoskeletal-related real-world uses.

“Our device is very sensitive to biomechanical pressure,” says senior author Jun Chen of the Department of Engineering, UCLA. “The device converts muscle activities into quantifiable, high-fidelity electrical signals that are sent wirelessly to phone apps. This demonstrates the potential for personalized physical therapies and improving the rehabilitation of muscle injuries.”

While described as a textile, it’s actually a cloth-like, nanomagnet-filled rubber patch, with silver-coated yarn stitched into its surface. It harnesses the magnetoelastic effect and electromagnetic induction to monitor even the slightest change in force, essentially producing electrical signals that can inform a physiotherapist or clinician about injuries, or when a patient is safe to return to activities after injury.

It can also let the wearer monitor ‘safe’ parameters for movement and exercise to avoid injury and overexertion. In this sense, it could even help prevent injury while the wearer gets the most out of their physical activity.

It can wirelessly feed back information on each muscle group to a smartphone monitor. For example, it can measure throat movements when drinking, or measure the force at which a hand is gripping an object when the patch is over the bicep.

“Another highlight of the device is its self-powering properties,” said Chen. “The ability to convert biomechanical force to electricity means the device is also a generator. This eliminates the need for bulky, heavy, and rigid battery packs usually needed in wearable electronic designs.”

While already flexible and durable, a thinner and lighter version is in the works, and the team hopes the real-world applications can stretch to more widespread monitoring that puts the data in the hands of the wearer.

“We’ve tested the device for cardiovascular monitoring and respiration monitoring as well,” says Chen. “One day, we may be able to reinvent or replace current systems, such as EKGs, that require external power sources, and make them less bulky and more wearable.”

The research was published in the journal Matter.

Read the original article on New Atlas.