Researchers synthesize wearable sensing fibers cable of detecting nitrogen dioxide

By Lim Chang-won Posted : September 3, 2019, 15:51 Updated : September 3, 2019, 15:51

[Courtesy of Korea Institute of Science and Technology]

SEOUL -- South Korean researchers have synthesized "mass-producible" wearable sensing fibers cable of detecting nitrogen dioxide (NO2) by incorporating carbon nanotubes into distinct nanocellulose obtained from sea squirt skin.

The state-funded Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) said its research team led by Jeong Hyeon-su has collaborated with other researchers to produce a combination of strong, chemically sensitive and flexible fibers by combining nanocellulose obtained from nature and carbon nanotube.

Research has been underway to create flexible sensors that can monitor the body's condition and environment, but existing sensors were made by coating ordinary fibers with conductive materials.

"It is important that we can effectively manufacture basic materials that we need as wearable sensing materials through the combination of materials," Jeong said, vowing to develop other wearable materials for detecting harmful gases.

"Our meter-scale scalable synthesis of functional composite fibers is expected to provide a mass-production platform of versatile wearable sensors," the researchers said in a research paper published by ACS Nano, a scientific journal.

Weavable sensing fibers with superior mechanical strength and sensing functionality are crucial for the realization of wearable textile sensors, according to the research paper.

In the fabrication of wearable sensing fibers, additional processes such as reduction, doping, and coating were essential and sensing fibers should be continuously synthesized in a scalable process for commercial applications with high reliability and productivity, it said.

Nanocellulose extracted from tunicate is homogeneously composited with single-walled carbon nanotubes, the research paper said, adding that composite fibers are continuously produced in aligned directions by wet spinning, facilitating liquid-crystal properties.

Such composite fibers exhibit superior gas-sensing performance with high selectivity and sensitivity. They endure "complex and harsh distortions maintaining their intrinsic sensing properties and can be perfectly integrated with conventional fabrics using a direct weaving process," the paper said.
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