Laboratory for Biomimetic Membranes and Textiles, Empa, Switzerland
Smart textiles for the monitoring of body vital signs and environmental threats
Novel spinning technologies like microfluidic wet spinning, thermal drawing, or electrospinning have recently enabled the development of multi-material and hybrid fibers. These multicomponent fibers can for example incorporate fluorescent moieties or bioactive materials and can be used as fiber-based sensors to assess vital signs for non-invasive body monitoring. Such sensors can measure physical parameters like the ECG or oxygen saturation in the blood, or chemical quantities in sweat or wound exudate (pH, lactate, different proteins, etc.), as well as harmful agents like volatile organic compounds. The implementation of such technologies requires an easiness to use and possible energy autarchy to ensure a high acceptance of the users. This may be achieved with the development of energy harvesting fibers. Our vision is the development of wearables that are not perceived by the users by integrating these sensing and actuating smart fibers into fabrics and clothing with classical textile technologies like weaving or knitting. Thus, these fiber-based sensors will become a new class of wearables called “disappearables”.
René Rossi studied applied physics at the University of Neuchâtel and obtained his Ph.D. at ETH Zurich. Since 2003, he has been leading the Laboratory for Biomimetic Membranes and Textiles at Empa, a group of around 40 researchers developing novel smart fibers, textiles, and membranes for body monitoring, drug delivery, and tissue engineering applications. A special focus is to develop physical and numerical skin/body models for the analysis of the interactions between materials and the human skin to optimize the protection and ergonomics of systems. René Rossi is an adjunct professor at the Department of Health Sciences and Technology at ETH Zurich and invited professor at the University of Haute-Alsace in Mulhouse/France.