Smart Sutures Integrate Microfluidics and Nanosensors

The role of nanomaterials in textiles has evolved from comparatively simple hydrophobic materials to the creation of textile electrodes that leverage graphene and the weaving of nanowires into t-shirts to make them into supercapacitors.

Now researchers at Tufts University have taken nanomaterials for wearable systems to a new level with the development of a “smart” thread consisting of nanoscale sensors and microfluidics. The thread could be used in sutures, providing critical information in medical treatments.

In research described in the journal Microsystems and Nanoengineering, the Tufts researchers first took raw cotton thread and coated it with carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and other conductive materials. They then took this array of conductive threads and dipped them into physical and chemical sensing compounds.

To produce strain sensors, elastic threads (polyurethane threads) were coated with CNTs and a polymer. The polymer improved the mechanical integrity of the conductive layer and reduced the occurrence of delamination. For pH sensors, the working electrode was made from nano-infused threads coated with carbon and another type of conducting polymer that provided biocompatibility, high electrical conductivity, and superior stability in electrolytes.

The treated threads were all connected to wireless electronic circuitry so that when they were used as sutures, it was possible to collect data on tissue health.

When the tissue health measurements—including temperature, strain, and pressure—are combined with glucose and pH measurements,…[Read more]