An electrocardiogram typically combines sticky, rash-inducing electrodes, ice-cold gels and tons of wires—an all-around uncomfortable experience. Researchers at the Japanese Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation may have a way to make this routine medical test as easy as putting on a shirt: They have invented the world’s first washable, wearable electrodes.
The electrodes, tested on 10 healthy volunteers, are made of a synthetic fiber coated in a conductive polymer, called PEDOT-PSS. All the participants had to do to ensure continual heartbeat and electrocardiogram monitoring was don undershirts equipped with them. NTT hopes the technology will ease some of the most uncomfortable aspects of hospital stays, as well as make it easier for doctors to monitor their patients remotely.
It will be a few years before the technology hits your neighborhood hospital or nursing home, however, because researchers still need to conduct long-term safety studies, this time on larger test groups. NTT is also going to look into other applications, like sportswear.