Electronic-ECM PDMS Material Shows Promise for Breathable, Biocompatible Wearable Sensors

Designed to solve the problem of sweat building up under wearable sensors, e-ECM is breathable and highly biocompatible.

Researchers at Binghamton University and the State University of New York (SUNY) have come up with a new material which, they claim, will lead to better wearable biosensors for health and athletic monitoring: a porous variant of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) dubbed electronic‐extracellular matrix (e-ECM).

"In athletic monitoring, if you have a device on your skin, sweat can build up under that device. That can cause inflammation and also inaccuracies in continuous monitoring applications," explains lead author Matthew S. Brown of the team's work. The solution: Taking polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a non-porous material already popular for biosensor use, and making it porous through electrospinning so sweat can escape through nanofibers."

The result proved worthy of the effort: "For instance, one experiment with electrocardiogram (ECG) analysis showed that the porous PDMS allowed for the evaporation of sweat during exercise, capable of maintaining a high-resolution signal," Brown explains. "The nonporous PDMS did not provide the ability for the sweat to readily evaporate, leading to a lower signal resolution after exercise."

The e-ECM material is porous, unlike traditional PDMS used in biosensors. (📹: Brown et al)

The nanofibre-based PDMS acts, the researchers found, like the collagen and elastic fibres found in human skin. Better still, it acts as a dry adhesive which allows the electronic sensor packages to better adhere to the patient's skin — and after a seven-day usage test, showed improved biocompatibility and viability than a non-porous PDMS equivalent.

The research indicates that the material could have use in healthcare for electronics designed to monitor and heal long-term chronic wounds, in breathable electronics for oxygen and carbon dioxide respiratory monitoring, and in implantable electronic devices including those used for in-vitro chemical and biological monitoring.

The team's work has been published under closed access terms in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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