The seminal graphene research centre, where Kostya Novoselov and Andre Geim first isolated graphene in 2004, has put out a new scientific research paper explaining how graphene could be crucial to wearable electronic applications because it is highly-conductive and ultra-flexible.
According to academics at the university, the research could pave the way for smart, battery-free healthcare and fitness monitoring, phones, internet-ready devices and chargers to be incorporated into clothing and ‘smart skin’ applications: printed graphene sensors integrated with other 2D materials stuck onto a patient’s skin to monitor temperature, strain and moisture levels.
Research leader Dr Zhirun Hu said that while existing materials used in wearable devices were either too expensive, such as silver nanoparticles, or not adequately conductive to have an effect, such as conductive polymers, graphene was perfect for the wearables market because of broad range of qualities. He said graphene conductive ink could be cheaply mass produced and printed onto various materials, including clothing and paper.
Hu’s researcher team printed graphene to construct transmission lines and antennas and experimented with these in communication devices, such as mobile and Wifi connectivity. Using a mannequin, they attached graphene-enabled antennas on each arm. The devices were able to ‘talk’ to each other, effectively creating an on-body communications system.
The results proved graphene-enabled components had the required quality and functionality for wireless wearable devices.
“This is a significant step forward – we can expect to see a truly all graphene enabled wireless wearable communications system in the near future,” Hu said. “The potential applications for this research are huge – whether it be for health monitoring, mobile communications or applications attached to skin for monitoring or messaging.
“This work demonstrates that this revolutionary scientific material is bringing a real change into our daily lives.”
Sir Novoselov said ongoing research had thrown up significant potential graphene applications.
“But to see evidence that cheap, scalable wearable communication devices are on the horizon is excellent news for graphene commercial applications,” he said.