You can now track your breathing with a super-flexible and sensitive medical device that Canadian chemists have made using chewing gum. The medical body sensors of the gummy are able to monitor vital functions such as your heart rate, steps, and sleep patterns, and are made stretchy so that they can withstand twists and bends repeatedly.
Created by chemists at the University of Manitoba, the new sensor was made using a spent piece of gum that after being chewed for half an hour, was doused in ethanol and allowed to rest overnight. The gum was then mixed with carbon nano-tubes – nanometre-thick cylinders of carbon atoms that have extraordinary conductive properties and can be used as sensing material, a day later. To complete this, the gum was stretched, twisted and folded repeatedly to uniformly distribute the tubes on the gum’s surface. The initial tests of the gum sensor involved testing how it monitored finger bending and head turning. It was also discovered that it can operate even when stretched 530 per cent.
When compared to its silicon-based alternatives, the chewing gum sensor was found to have a high sensitivity, being able to trace ‘slow breathing.’ In addition to this, it displayed the unexpected property of detecting changing humidity levels. These features should allow further monitoring of breathing, as we exhale water vapour during the process.
After submitting their finding on the American Chemical Society’s Applied Materials & Interfaces journal, the technology was also found to be useful for creating miniaturised sensors and biochips as it can be fashioned into different shapes.