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Not to be sneezed at: scientists create tissue paper sensor

Paper towels dipped in a solution of water and tiny carbon tubes are being used to track eye movement

Person wearing glasses

University of Washington engineers have created a wearable sensor using paper towels dipped in carbon nano-tube laced water.

The device, which is described in Advanced Materials Technologies, can detect eyeball movement as well as a heartbeat, finger movement and finger force.

Study author, Dr Jae-Hyun Chung, described how the technology can be used to measure brain function by attaching the sensor to a person’s reading glasses and tracking eye movement.

“The major innovation is a disposable wearable sensor made with cheap tissue paper,” he highlighted.

Other uses include monitoring a person’s gait and taking measurements during occupational therapy.

The carbon nano-tubes used in the sensors are tiny materials that create electrical conductivity.

Tissue paper has both horizontal and vertical fibers so when the paper is torn, the direction of the tear indicates the direction of movement.

Because the material used in the technology is low-cost, the sensors can be used once and thrown away.

Scientists are hoping to commercialise the innovation and filed a provisional patent for the technology in December 2017.

Image credit: Dennis R Wise/University of Washington