Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp (NTT) developed an electrode material that can be woven into clothes such as underwares.
The material is made by coating the surfaces of silk, synthetic fiber fabric, etc with the "PEDOT-PSS" conductive polymer. It has high flexibility, hydrophilicity and strength. It does not cause skin problems or discomfort feelings even when closely attached to human skin because it is biocompatible.
Before the development of the new material, electrodes were combined with electrolyte paste or gel for recording an electrocardiogram. But the old method covered sweat glands, causing discomfort feelings, and it was difficult to keep wearing such measurement devices, NTT said. On the other hand, silver-plated fibers produce a large amount of noise and cannot be used for recording an electrocardiogram.
NTT has already conducted a test in which 10 healthy people were wearing measurement devices made by using the new material for several days (including more than 24 hours of continuous wearing). And it confirmed that data can be obtained without a break and that the material does not cause skin problems.
For the future, NTT will conduct a test with about 100 subjects and test the safety of the material more thoroughly. It plans to collaborate with medical schools and research institutes to use the material for long-term electrocardiographic measurements that place less burden on patients, monitoring, basic researches and home care and telemedicine services within two years.
"The new material can be softly washed by hand," NTT said. "But it is difficult to wash it in a washer. And we have to solve this problem."
The material can be used not only for measuring an electrocardiogram but also as electrodes for electroencephalography. Furthermore, because it has a high biocompatibility, it can be directly embedded around nerves and used for nerve action potential measurement.