Individuals can now measure their breathing and heart rate by wearing a t-shirt or face mask embedded with sensors.

Scientists at Imperial College London have developed the wearable sensors to help people ‘fashionably’ monitor their physical activity, sleeping patterns and stress levels.

Created by a cotton-based conductive thread called PECOTEX, the technology is affordable and easy to embed into clothing, the study has reported.

Main author Fahad Alshabouna said: “The flexible medium of clothing means our sensors have a wide range of applications.

“They’re also relatively easy to produce which means we could scale up manufacturing and usher in a new generation of wearables in clothing.”

The team of academics also used the sensors to examine certain gases like ammonia, an element of the breath that can be used to observe liver and kidney function.

“We demonstrated applications in monitoring cardiac activity and breathing, and sensing gases. Future potential applications include diagnosing and monitoring disease and treatment, monitoring the body during exercise, sleep, and stress, and use in batteries, heaters, anti-static clothing,” said Fahad.

According to experts, wearable sensors are integrated into wearable objects or directly with the body in order to help monitor health and to provide clinically relevant data for care, a theme of a concept called precision health.

Fellow researcher Dr Firat Guder said: “PECOTEX is high-performing, strong and adaptable to different needs.

“It’s readily scalable, meaning we can produce large volumes inexpensively using both domestic and industrial computerised embroidery machines.”

Dr Guder added: “Our research opens up exciting possibilities for wearable sensors in everyday clothing.

“By monitoring breathing, heart rate, and gases, they can already be seamlessly integrated, and might even be able to help diagnose and monitor treatments of disease in the future.”

In the future, the researchers want to study other application areas, such as energy harvesting, energy storage and biochemical sensing.

The study has been published in the journal Materials Today.

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