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Cortex - Life Sciences Insights

| 1 minute read

Graphene-based wearables for health monitoring, food inspection and night vision.

Graphene is a miraculous compound. Made up of a singe layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice, it has broken records for strength, heat and electrical conduction. Morover, it's surface area is simply vast; 2,630 metres squared per gramme. In terms of floor space, if it was a flat in south west London, it would be worth just over £2 million. 

Among its other applications, these properties mean graphene could dramatically enhance computer processors: meaning more powerful chips in a significantly smaller area. Enabling the development of platforms such as IFCO's technology; a wearable that can monitor hydration, oxygen saturation and sunlight exposure.

The same tech could also convert your smartphones camera in a spectrometer; technology previously reserved for laboratories. Facilitating the detection of counterfeit drugs or the identification of harmful substances within a product that we use or food that we eat.

"Built into a smart phone camera, the graphene-based camera sensor allows phones to see more than what's visible to the human eye," comments Frank Koppens, group leader at Graphene Flagship partner ICFO, and Chair of the Graphene Flagship MWC Committee. "Made up of hundreds of thousands of photodetectors, this incredibly small sensor is highly sensitive to UV and infrared light."

"This technology would allow users in the supermarket to hold the camera to fruit and infer which is the freshest piece. Or, in a more extreme example, the camera could be used for driving in dangerously dense fog by providing augmented outlines of surrounding vehicles on the windscreen.

As the use wearables and the health industry in general continue to develop, it will be intriguing to see how these devices are regulated. It is not hard to imagine the wearable patches, or something similar, being used in hospitals to monitor patient’s vitals in a far less invasive way, without the need of constant check ups from nurses; freeing up valuable time. With this sort of application a possibility, developers of wearable devices such as this will need to make sure they have received regulatory advice on their position, and that they are viewed as an app to monitor wellbeing, and not a medical device.

A person is trekking in the remote amazon jungle with limited access to water. By measuring the skin hydration of their body with ICFO's fitness band, the user can optimize water intake, preventing any sort of dehydration. Similarly, an explorer hiking to the peak of mount Everest could use the band to accurately monitor oxygen saturation in blood. The high altitude can severely effect oxygen saturation in the body. Using the band, the hiker could monitor these levels and emit a warning if oxygen saturation in the blood decreases drastically below a certain level.


wearable tech, life scienc, graphene, medical devices, innovation, tech