Smart Textiles for Personalized Health Care

There is nothing more personal than healthcare. Health care must move from its current reactive and disease-centric system to a personalized, predictive, preventative and participatory model with a focus on disease prevention and health promotion. As the world marches into the era of Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G network, technology renovation enables the industry to offer a more individually tailored approach to healthcare with more successful health outcomes, higher quality, and lower costs. However, empowering the utility of IoT enabled technology in personalized health care is still significantly challenged by the shortage of cost-effective and wearable biomedical devices to continuously provide real-time, patient-generated health data. Textiles have been concomitant and playing a vital role in the long history of human civilization. Merging electronics and textiles becomes increasingly important owing to the growing trend of pervasive computing, especially body computing.

Our human beings have a very long history with textiles, and it is time to make them smart now!

One of the most promising but underexplored options is the Internet-connected clothing/textiles for future personalized healthcare. To realize it, wearable power sources, textile sensors, microcontrollers, wireless communication, and networking technologies are indispensable components. In this regard, I took a first step to develop smart textiles as wearable and sustainable power sources via large-scale industrial weaving/knitting techniques, including a photovoltaic textile, and a hybrid power textile for simultaneous harvesting of solar and biomechanical energy (highlighted by Nature 2016, 537, 283), which provides an energy solution for future wearable biomedical systems. I also developed a pressure‐sensitive, large‐scale, and washable smart textile for real‐time and self‐powered sleep behavior monitoring. During sleeping, the position and other sleeping behavior can be detected and recorded in real-time. And a highly integrated data acquisition, processing, and wireless transmission system were established to analyze the acquired electrical signals for sleep quality and health status evaluation. In addition, I also developed a phase change materials enabled nanocomposite textile (PCM textile) for active body temperature regulation, which was capable of influencing the microclimate on the skin, maintaining a localized thermal comfort zone from 26.2°C to 29.1°C. It will avoid skin overheating, reduce skin perspiration, and promote burn wound healing.  It can also act as a cooling agent to reduce the risk of local body hypothermia caused by traditional ice packs. 

Recent first/corresponding-author publications:

1) Nat. Energy  2016, 1, 16138.

2) Adv. Mater. 2016, 28, 263.

3) Adv. Funct. Mater. 2018, 28, 1704112.

4) ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2018, 10, 41070.