Smart garments used in the healthcare sector
Fibres with piezoelectric properties can measure body movement, respiration and heart rate. The fibres are sewn into garments that can in some cases be used in healthcare to replace conventional electrodes.
Swerea has developed a fibre that can be used in textiles to monitor heart rate, respiration and body movements on patients or athletics. The fibres are sewn into the fabric and no extra electrodes need to be applied to the body, since the fibres in the garments act as sensors. This improves patient mobility and comfort.
Increased comfort with multi-functional design
One other possible application is monitoring of sleep disorders or stress. This type of study is often done over a long period of time and when the patient is asleep or resting, which means that the comfort of the garment is very important. The development of smartphones also presents new possibilities for analysing and presenting data in mobile apps. This has contributed to the development of so-called wearable electronics, in which sensor fibres are a necessary component for data collection.
Other important applications include, for example, monitoring the respiration rate of babies, and thereby preventing sudden infant death, or for studying how muscles, limbs or organs function with an aim to improving athletic performance. However, athletic garments of this kind are currently rather expensive. A training singlet in which the necessary function is incorporated would cost perhaps ten times as much as a normal singlet.
Piezoelektronics revolutionize the textile industry
When the piezoelectric fibres in a garment are stretched, an electrical current that can be registered is generated. Hopefully, the advent of wearable devices will improve the future competitiveness of the Swedish textiles industry.