Wearable technologies are skyrocketing in popularity in both the consumer market and the medical field, used to track all sorts of health data, from heart rates to sleep cycles.
But the current crop of technologies relies primarily on metal, which is highly sensitive to movement, but doesn’t twist, bend or flex the way the human body does. Plastics and silicone are more pliable but aren’t as sensitive.
Researchers at the University of Manitoba may have found a solution to that sticking point—chewing gum.
Chewing gum is adhesive, moldable and elastic (as anyone who’s ever stepped in it can attest). And when it’s attached to carbon nanotube sensors, it might solve one of the problems with the current generation of wearable gadgets.
Writing in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, the authors described their experiment, chewing a piece of gum for 30 minutes, washing it in ethanol and letting it sit out overnight. They next applied a solution of carbon nanotubes—the sensing technology—to the gum, which they evenly distributed with some stretching and folding.
The researchers then tested their device by attaching it to a finger and to the throat. It accurately detected finger bends, as well as motion from sneezing and deep breaths.
It also responded to changes in humidity—a surprise finding that could have applications for monitoring breathing.
And that’s something to chew on.