When you’re ten years old, pinging rubber bands across the classroom is fun. Getting caught doing so by your teacher is not. However you have to admit it’s kind of a novel use for those flexible little bands. Now Irish researchers may have upped the game by finding another, even more novel application for them.
The team at AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland-funded materials science centre, and the School of Physics TCD, working with researchers from the University of Surrey, have discovered a method of creating wearable sensors from shop-bought rubber bands. If you were listening back in class, you’ll remember that rubber doesn’t normally conduct electricity. However, the researchers whose findings have just been published in ACS Nano, a leading international nanoscience publication, discovered that by adding graphene the rubber bands became electrically conductive. In tests, the bands were strongly affected by any electrical current flowing through them if the band was stretched, which means tiny movements such as breath and pulse could be sensed by the technology.
The potential of graphene to be used in wearable sensors was noted by our TTA Editor-In-Chief, Donna, in her Pointer to the Future item back in 2011, Nanosheets and graphene: powering sensors, computers. Because rubber is available widely and cheaply, this latest development could open up major possibilities in the manufacturing of wearable sensors worldwide. Which means we can all look forward to finding graphene infused biosensors in everything from our bras to our bionic underpants.