A study led by Washington State University researchers demonstrates that electrodes can be made using just screen printing, creating a stretchable, durable circuit pattern that can be transferred to fabric and worn directly on human skin. Such wearable electronics can be used for health monitoring in hospitals or at home.
“We wanted to make flexible, wearable electronics in a way that is much easier, more convenient and lower cost,” said corresponding author Jong-Hoon Kim, associate professor at the WSU Vancouver’s School of Engineering and Computer Science. “That’s why we focused on screen printing: it’s easy to use. It has a simple setup, and it is suitable for mass production.”
In the study, published in the ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces journal, Kim and his colleagues detail the electrode screen-printing process and demonstrate how the resulting electrodes can be used for electrocardiogram monitoring. They used a multi-step process to layer polymer and metal inks to create snake-like structures of the electrode. While the resulting thin pattern appears delicate, the electrodes are not fragile. The study showed they could be stretched by 30% and bend to 180 degrees.
The electrodes are printed onto a pre-treated glass slide, which allows them to be easily peeled off and transferred onto fabric or other material. After printing the electrodes, the researchers transferred them onto an adhesive fabric that was then worn directly on the skin by volunteers. The wireless electrodes accurately recorded heart and respiratory rates, sending the data to a mobile phone.