MIT develops machine-washable sensors that embed in clothing for constant vital sign monitoring

By Darrell Etherington

MIT has developed a new type of lightweight sensor that can be integrated into flexible fabrics, including the kinds of polyesters often used in athletic wear, to provide constant monitoring of vital signs including body temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate. These sensors are machine-washable and can be integrated into clothing that appears totally normal on the outside, and they can also be removed and re-used in different garments.

The research, which led to the design of a prototype that communicates with a smartphone and that could lead to eventual mass production with partners in China, has potential applications across the health industry, in athletics and even in space for astronaut vital sign monitoring. MIT’s research was funded in part by NASA and the MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative, but its potential here on Earth has much more widespread benefit potential, particularly in the era of COVID-19 and the healthcare landscape that will result even once it’s more under control.

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