Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors
Heifer International



Home > Press > NUS ‘smart’ textiles boost connectivity between wearable sensors by 1,000 times: Metamaterials are incorporated into conventional clothing to dramatically improve signal strength between electronic devices, allowing for new applications

From left:PhD student Mr Tian Xi, Research Fellow Dr Lee Pui Mun,andAssistant Professor John Ho, together with seven NUS researchers,took a year to develop the ‘smart’ textiles.Credit:National University of Singapore
From left:PhD student Mr Tian Xi, Research Fellow Dr Lee Pui Mun,andAssistant Professor John Ho, together with seven NUS researchers,took a year to develop the ‘smart’ textiles.Credit:National University of Singapore

Abstract:
ver the past decade, a major trend in electronics has been the development of sensors, displays and smart devices which are seamlessly integrated onto the human body. Most of these wearable devices are singularly connected to a user’s smart phone and transmit all data via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi signals. But as consumers wear increasing numbers of wearable devices, and as the data they transmit increases in sophistication, more innovative connection methods are being sought after.

NUS ‘smart’ textiles boost connectivity between wearable sensors by 1,000 times: Metamaterials are incorporated into conventional clothing to dramatically improve signal strength between electronic devices, allowing for new applications

Singapore | Posted on July 15th, 2019

Now, researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have invented a completely new way for wearable devices to interconnect. They incorporated conductive textiles into clothing to dynamically connect several wearable devices at once. This ‘wireless body sensor network’ allows devices to transmit data with 1,000 times stronger signal than conventional technologies, meaning the battery life of all devices is dramatically improved. Wireless networks of these wearable devices on a body have future applications in health monitoring, medical interventions and human–machine interfaces.



This technological breakthrough, which took the 10-member team a year to achieve, was published as the cover of Nature Electronics on 17 June 2019.



Better data transmission, greater privacy



Currently, almost all body sensors like smart watches connect to smartphones and other wearable electronics via radio-waves like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. These waves radiate outwards in all directions, meaning that most of the energy is lost to the surrounding area. This method of connectivity drastically reduces the efficiency of the wearable technology as most of its battery life is consumed in attempting the connection.



As such, Assistant Professor John Ho and his team from the Institute for Health Innovation & Technology (NUS iHealthtech) and the NUS Faculty of Engineering wanted to confine the signals between the sensors closer to the body to improve efficiency.



Their solution was to enhance regular clothing with conductive textiles known as metamaterials. Rather than sending waves into surrounding space, these metamaterials are able to create ‘surface waves’ which can glide wirelessly around the body on the clothes. This means that the energy of the signal between devices is held close to the body rather than spread in all directions. Hence, the wearable electronics use much less power than normal, and the devices can detect much weaker signals.



“This innovation allows for the perfect transmission of data between devices at power levels that are 1,000 times reduced. Or, alternatively, these metamaterial textiles could boost the received signal by 1,000 times which could give you dramatically higher data rates for the same power,” Asst Prof Ho stated. In fact, the signal between devices is so strong that it is possible to wirelessly transmit power from a smartphone to the device itself — opening the door for battery-free wearable devices.



Crucially, this signal boost does not require any changes to either the smartphone or the Bluetooth device — the metamaterial works with any existing wireless device in the designed frequency band.



This inventive way of networking devices also provides more privacy than conventional methods. Currently, radio-waves transmit signals several metres outwards from the person wearing the device, meaning that personal and sensitive information could be vulnerable to potential eavesdroppers. By confining the wireless communication signal to within 10 centimetres of the body, Asst Prof Ho and his team have created a network which is more secure.



Intelligent design, enhanced capabilities



The team has a first-year provisional patent on the metamaterial textile design, which consists of a comb-shaped strip of metamaterial on top of the clothing with an unpatterned conductor layer underneath. These strips can then be arranged on clothing in any pattern necessary to connect all areas of the body. The metamaterial itself is cost-effective, in the range of a few dollars per metre, and can be bought readily in rolls.



“We started with a specific metamaterial that was both flat and could support surface waves. We had to redesign the structure so that it could work at the frequencies used for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, perform well even when close to the human body, and could be mass produced by cutting sheets of conductive textile,” Asst Prof Ho explained.



The team’s particular design was created with the aid of a computer model to ensure successful communication in the radio frequency range and to optimise overall efficacy. The smart clothing is then fabricated by laser-cutting the conductive metamaterial and attaching the strips with fabric adhesive.



Once made, the ‘smart’ clothes are highly robust. They can be folded and bent with minimal loss to the signal strength, and the conductive strips can even be cut or torn, without inhibiting the wireless capabilities. The garments can also be washed, dried, and ironed just like normal clothing.



Next steps



The team is talking to potential partners to commercialise this technology, and in the near future Asst Prof Ho is hoping to test the ‘smart’ textiles as specialised athletic clothing and for hospital patients to monitor performances and health. Potential applications could range dramatically — from measuring a patient’s vital signs without inhibiting their freedom of motion, to adjusting the volume in an athlete’s wireless headphones with a single hand motion.



“We envision that endowing athletic wear, medical clothing and other apparel with such advanced electromagnetic capabilities can enhance our ability to perceive and interact with the world around us,” Asst Prof Ho said.

####

About National University of Singapore
The National University of Singapore (NUS) is Singapore’s flagship university, which offers a global approach to education, research and entrepreneurship, with a focus on Asian perspectives and expertise. We have 17 faculties across three campuses in Singapore, as well as 12 NUS Overseas Colleges across the world. Close to 40,000 students from 100 countries enrich our vibrant and diverse campus community.



Our multidisciplinary and real-world approach to education, research and entrepreneurship enables us to work closely with industry, governments and academia to address crucial and complex issues relevant to Asia and the world. Researchers in our faculties, 29 university-level research institutes, research centres of excellence and corporate labs focus on themes that include energy, environmental and urban sustainability; treatment and prevention of diseases common among Asians; active ageing; advanced materials; as well as risk management and resilience of financial systems. Our latest research focus is on the use of data science, operations research and cybersecurity to support Singapore's Smart Nation initiative.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
For media enquiries, please contact:

Carolyn FONG

Associate Director, Media Relations

Office of University Communications

National University of Singapore

DID: +65 6516-5399

Copyright © National University of Singapore

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

First human trial shows ‘wonder’ material can be developed safely: A revolutionary nanomaterial with huge potential to tackle multiple global challenges could be developed further without acute risk to human health, research suggests February 16th, 2024

Detecting breast cancer through a spit test February 16th, 2024

New chip opens door to AI computing at light speed February 16th, 2024

HKUST researchers develop new integration technique for efficient coupling of III-V and silicon February 16th, 2024

Wearable electronics

CityU awarded invention: Soft, ultrathin photonic material cools down wearable electronic devices June 30th, 2023

Liquid metal sticks to surfaces without a binding agent June 9th, 2023

Breaking through the limits of stretchable semiconductors with molecular brakes that harness light June 9th, 2023

Vertical electrochemical transistor pushes wearable electronics forward: Biomedical sensing is one application of efficient, low-cost transistors January 20th, 2023

Tin selenide nanosheets enables to develop wearable tracking devices December 9th, 2022

Videos/Movies

New X-ray imaging technique to study the transient phases of quantum materials December 29th, 2022

Solvent study solves solar cell durability puzzle: Rice-led project could make perovskite cells ready for prime time September 23rd, 2022

Scientists prepare for the world’s smallest race: Nanocar Race II March 18th, 2022

Sensors

$900,000 awarded to optimize graphene energy harvesting devices: The WoodNext Foundation's commitment to U of A physicist Paul Thibado will be used to develop sensor systems compatible with six different power sources January 12th, 2024

A color-based sensor to emulate skin's sensitivity: In a step toward more autonomous soft robots and wearable technologies, EPFL researchers have created a device that uses color to simultaneously sense multiple mechanical and temperature stimuli December 8th, 2023

New tools will help study quantum chemistry aboard the International Space Station: Rochester Professor Nicholas Bigelow helped develop experiments conducted at NASA’s Cold Atom Lab to probe the fundamental nature of the world around us November 17th, 2023

TU Delft researchers discover new ultra strong material for microchip sensors: A material that doesn't just rival the strength of diamonds and graphene, but boasts a yield strength 10 times greater than Kevlar, renowned for its use in bulletproof vests November 3rd, 2023

Discoveries

HKUST researchers develop new integration technique for efficient coupling of III-V and silicon February 16th, 2024

Electrons screen against conductivity-killer in organic semiconductors: The discovery is the first step towards creating effective organic semiconductors, which use significantly less water and energy, and produce far less waste than their inorganic counterparts February 16th, 2024

Superbug killer: New synthetic molecule highly effective against drug-resistant bacteria February 16th, 2024

Discovery of new Li ion conductor unlocks new direction for sustainable batteries: University of Liverpool researchers have discovered a new solid material that rapidly conducts lithium ions February 16th, 2024

Materials/Metamaterials/Magnetoresistance

Focused ion beam technology: A single tool for a wide range of applications January 12th, 2024

Catalytic combo converts CO2 to solid carbon nanofibers: Tandem electrocatalytic-thermocatalytic conversion could help offset emissions of potent greenhouse gas by locking carbon away in a useful material January 12th, 2024

2D material reshapes 3D electronics for AI hardware December 8th, 2023

Finding the most heat-resistant substances ever made: UVA Engineering secures DOD MURI award to advance high-temperature materials December 8th, 2023

Announcements

Detecting breast cancer through a spit test February 16th, 2024

New chip opens door to AI computing at light speed February 16th, 2024

HKUST researchers develop new integration technique for efficient coupling of III-V and silicon February 16th, 2024

Electrons screen against conductivity-killer in organic semiconductors: The discovery is the first step towards creating effective organic semiconductors, which use significantly less water and energy, and produce far less waste than their inorganic counterparts February 16th, 2024

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals/White papers/Posters

First human trial shows ‘wonder’ material can be developed safely: A revolutionary nanomaterial with huge potential to tackle multiple global challenges could be developed further without acute risk to human health, research suggests February 16th, 2024

Detecting breast cancer through a spit test February 16th, 2024

New chip opens door to AI computing at light speed February 16th, 2024

HKUST researchers develop new integration technique for efficient coupling of III-V and silicon February 16th, 2024

Textiles/Clothing

This new fabric coating could drastically reduce microplastic pollution from washing clothes: University of Toronto Engineering researchers are working on a fabric finish to prevent microplastic fibres from shedding during laundry cycles January 27th, 2023

Protective equipment with graphene nanotubes meets the strictest ESD safety standards March 25th, 2022

Polymer fibers with graphene nanotubes make it possible to heat hard-to-reach, complex-shaped items February 11th, 2022

Flexible material shows potential for use in fabrics to heat, cool July 3rd, 2020

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project