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Engineers at the University of Delaware are revolutionizing human health monitoring using clothing- or more precisely- using nanomaterial-based sensors embedded in clothing, called “Henswear.”

The team, led by Professor Erik Thostenson, developed sensors that can be seamlessly integrated into everyday fabrics and offer real-time data on human movement.

In 2019, Thostenson and associate scientist Sagar Doshi co-founded MCET Technologies – a company dedicated to developing sensors for various applications, from monitoring structural health infrastructure to human motion. They began by evaluating the ability of Thostenson’s nanomaterial-based sensors to collect the needed data on human movement in a process that typically requires a lab environment. The results of the study became the foundation of Henswear.

According to Interesting Engineering, the current sensors boast remarkable flexibility and high sensitivity to changes in pressure and angle while remaining thin. Costing less than $1 per gram of material, they can both be incorporated into existing garments or directly applied to fabrics.

The next step is additional research to validate the sensors and compare them to conventional lab-based assessments, as well as ensure the textiles can be washed and still function.

When it comes to real-life application, Thostenson said: “We understand the sensor and the sensing mechanism, and now we will be working on translating it to an application. That means understanding sensor repeatability, human garment interaction, and working with industry partners to learn about potential applications, what the customer’s needs are, and where this technology could be inserted.”

From enhancing fitness trackers to aiding recovery from injuries, potential applications are quite diverse, and as the sensors transition from lab prototypes to wearable tech, the researchers are optimistic about the human impact and how this tech could help people heal or get back to full fitness faster.