Researchers have displayed a flexible, stretchable optical fiber that functions as a biocompatible temperature sensor by receiving light impulses from embedded upconversion nanoparticles. The research team thinks fiber might provide an intriguing platform for creating real-time wearable temperature sensors for robotics and personal health care.
Wearable sensors must be pliable enough to bend and stretch with the movements of their human users to be useful. Research teams studying a variety of mechanically flexible nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes and polymer composites, have already made some headway in the electronic field toward creating such flexible materials for wearable temperature sensors.
The effectiveness of such materials in the real world may be hampered by electromagnetic interference, the experts point out, as they frequently contain metal components that reduce their biocompatibility. A potential solution that can address some of these issues is an optical cable. However, traditional fibers composed of silica or glass need more flexibility.
The team created an optical fiber that could endure strains of up to 100% using polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a highly stretchable silicone elastomer. Through readings of variations in the attenuation spectrum of white light sent through the fiber, the researchers further showed that this flexible fiber could function as a wearable strain or motion sensor.
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