Flexible Medical Sensors Made From Chewing Gum

That's a mouthful

Chewing gum
Chewing gum
Wayne Noffsinger/Flickr CC by 2.0

Chewing gum on your shoe? Annoying. Chewing gum as a medical device? Pretty cool.

As detailed in a paper published last month in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces researchers have discovered they can make a sensor out of chewing gum and carbon nanotubes.

To create the sensor, the team had a researcher chew Doublemint gum for 30 minutes (science is so hard sometimes). That chewed gum was then soaked in ethanol to clean it, and imbued with carbon nanotubes, tiny flexible pieces of carbon that can conduct electricity. The new sensors will eventually be able to monitor small body movements, like the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe, or the tiny movement of blood through your body as your heart pumps. Just like sensors made from other materials, in order to record such tiny movements, the sensor is hooked up to a conventional monitoring device, which measures the desired trait (like heartbeat or breathing).

These new sensors have an advantage over more traditional metal sensors, and even over other flexible plastic sensors. Unlike either, they can move with the person being monitored without losing their efficacy. The researchers also found that the nanotube-laced gum could record humidity at small levels, like the cloud of moisture in a human breath. Humidity measurements could make it possible for doctors to more effectively monitor patients' breathing in the future, and the stretchy durability of these new sensors could make them valuable in the world of wearable monitoring devices. An added bonus? Forbes reports that the sensors only cost about $3.

See the stretchy new sensors in action in a video released earlier this week: