Nanotube-coated spider silk can sense your heartbeat
The tough, flexible material can be made in a few simple steps and might find uses in a range of medical sensors
SPIDER silk darkened with a coating of carbon nanotubes can tell if your heart just skipped a beat.
Following a few simple steps, researchers have made a silk-nanotube hybrid that is tough, flexible and electrically conductive. The material might find uses in a range of bendy medical sensors.
When the material dried out, the silk was coated with a thin layer of nanotubes. This composite is three times tougher than spider silk alone and is sensitive enough to detect the electrical signals from a heart pulse (
Commercially available pulse detectors are often made of rigid materials. The silk-based version can be wrapped around irregularly shaped objects, such as wrists or fingers, without losing sensitivity.
Scaling up production may be a challenge, though, as it is hard to farm spider silk in large amounts, Steven adds. But there has been progress making synthetic silk.
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