Graphene Silly Putty could be the future of medical sensors

9 Dec 201629 Shares

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Mouldable putty. Image: Gearstd/Shutterstock

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The internet of things could be about to get a bit more playful as the AMBER centre showcases a new type of graphene sensor made using the kids’ toy, Silly Putty.

As an atom-thick wonder material, graphene has been prophesised for years now as the next big thing in material science.

But now, an interesting breakthrough made by the AMBER centre in Trinity College Dublin could be about to take us into the sillier side of science, or at least Silly Putty.

Led by Prof Jonathan Coleman, a research team within the centre has been looking at how a melding of graphene and the kids’ toy Silly Putty could be a match made in heaven.

Realising graphene’s unique conductive properties and Silly Putty’s ability to mould into almost any shape, the team wanted to see could they be combined to create a mouldable sensor.

Sure enough, Coleman and his team found that that the electrical resistance of putty infused with graphene – that it is calling ‘G-putty’ – was extremely sensitive to the slightest deformation or impact.

Can detect the footprint of the smallest spider

To test its effectiveness, the team mounted the G-putty onto the chest and neck of human subjects and used it to measure breathing, pulse and even blood pressure.

To the team’s amazement, it showed unprecedented sensitivity as a sensor for strain and pressure, hundreds of times more sensitive than normal sensors, offering hope for future use in medical devices.

It could also be used as a precise impact measurement device capable of detecting the footprints of the smallest spiders.

Speaking of its potential, Coleman said: “While a common application has been to add graphene to plastics in order to improve the electrical, mechanical, thermal or barrier properties, the resultant composites have generally performed as expected without any great surprises.

“The behaviour we found with G-putty has not been found in any other composite material. This unique discovery will open up major possibilities in sensor manufacturing worldwide.”

Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

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