Battery-Free Graphene Devices Could Be Printed onto the Skin

Graphene could usher in smart devices that allow for wireless health monitoring. Continue reading →

Wearable devices are catching on quickly and now researchers believe that graphene, known to be the world's thinnest, strongest, and most conductive material could open up a realm of new possibilities.

Imagine a future of smart, battery-free devices that could be printed directly onto a person's skin, are flexible enough to be embedded into fabrics and communicate wirelessly to the Internet.

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That's what researchers led by Dr. Zhirun Hu at the University of Manchester are working to develop.

To date, they've used graphene to construct tiny antennas and transmission lines that work as communication components for gadgets and incorporate mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity. In experiments, they attached the antennas to the arms of mannequins, and tested how well the devices could communicate with each other.

The results show that graphene works just as well as more expensive materials on the market.

When combined with other thin materials, the graphene could be made into an ultra-thin device that sticks onto a patient's skin to monitor temperature, muscle strain and moisture levels.

For example, a graphene RFID tags affixed to a hospital patient's arm could sense body temperature, heartbeat and send the information wirelessly to the hospital's medical staff.

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When not printed directly onto the skin, wearables could also be incorporated into clothing for people such as elderly patients that could benefit from remote healthcare monitoring to improve their quality of life.

"This work demonstrates that this revolutionary scientific material is bringing a real change into our daily lives," Dr. Hu said in in a statement published on the university's website.

These findings were recently published in a paper in Scientific Reports.

via The University of Manchester

Odds are you own a wearable computers. This past year has seen explosive growth for such devices, including fitness trackers, phone watches and motion trackers. Shipments for various devices are poised to reach 76.1 million units by the end of 2015, up 163.6 percent from 2014, according to IT research firm IDC. By 2019, worldwide shipments are expected to reach 173.4 million units. It's safe to say the industry is booming. Here’s a look at some of the most popular and intriguing wearables that hit the market this year. These wearables run the gamut in functionality, from tracking heart rate and activity to zapping your brain to improve your mood and sending off an alarm to help prevent sexual assault.

The Apple Watch

The Apple Watch, which debuted in April 2015, is a sleek wearable that resembles a mini iPhone for your wrist. It’s available in different models, including Apple Watch Sport and the Apple Watch Edition. It provides advanced health and activity tracking, including wrist-based heart rate monitoring, and can display updates or control music on your smartphone. Models start at $349.

The health-tracking Fitbit ranges in price from the $60 (for the ZIP) to the $250 (for the Surge). Known as the leader in wearable activity tracking, Fitbit sold 4.7 million devices between July and September this year, according to IDC. Real-time information about activity, exercise, food, sleep and more make this slim device attractive to those trying to improve their overall health.

This wearable zaps your brain to change your mood. The white curved Thync connects wirelessly to a smartphone via Bluetooth low-energy. After pairing it with your mobile device, Thync sends low-level pulses of electricity into your head activating pathways in your brain that make you feel calm or energized.

The second generation Motorola Moto 360 includes a heart-rate monitor, music player and GPS. Starting at $299, this Android watch can also be voice-controlled through the “OK Google” command in Google Search.

With motion-sensing technology and coaching guidance, Moov Now ($79.99), available for both Android and iOS, brings workouts to the next level. The wearable aims to improve almost all forms of exercise with instructions and real-time data, from running to cardio boxing and swimming.

Athena, developed by Philadelphia-based startup Roar for Good, is a coin-size personal safety alarm to help prevent sexual assault. The wearable, which can be worn as a necklace or used an accessory that’s clipped to a shirt pocket, belt or purse, sounds off an alarm and notifies contacts of the user’s location if it’s pressed for three seconds or longer.

A new pair of jeans called #Hellojean, created by Joe’s Jeans, are not only fashionable, but also double as a wearable device, with a dedicated pocked to charge a smartphone (as long as it’s smaller than the iPhone 6). The jeans cost $190 and the battery pack, sold separately, costs $49. The USB cord is hidden in the seams of the jeans so it can “invisibly” connect to the phone.

This wearable motorcycle helmet, with a $1,500 price tag, has a heads-up display, a 180-degree rearview camera and GPS navigation. There’s also a voice-control feature that connects to a phone and can control music.

This insole ($200) tracks your daily steps and calories burned and can also keep your feet warm. Called Digitsole, it provides an extra layer of padding to your sneakers to absorb shock and vibrations when you’re moving.

Like a Glove smart leggings fit all sizes and include sensors that take measurements -- including waist, thighs, hips and inseam -- at the press of a button. The measurements are then sent to an app that helps select the best jean brands that fit your dimensions. The leggings can be pre-ordered for $40.

This decorative activity tracker for women is an accessory that resembles a leaf and can be work on the wrist, collar or neck. In addition to tracking steps and sleep quality, it also tracks menstruation and ovulation and offers guided breathing exercises to reduce stress. The wearable starts at $119.