Researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland developed a new sustainable electrocardiogram (ECG) patch made of biomaterials.
The fully-recyclable, modular patch features easily removable electronic components, capable for later reuse. VTT made the patch from its new material cellulose e-skin, which replaces traditional plastic in wearable skin applications. It printed the nanocellulose material with carbon conductors and sensing electrodes.
“The healthcare industry has one of the heaviest environmental footprints, and manufacturers are increasingly faced with regulations to make more sustainable products. Bio-based substrates like cellulose e-skin are promising alternatives to fossil-based ones,” said Mohammad H. Behfar, senior scientist at VTT. “The tricky part is the fact that they need to possess certain properties like stretchability, tear-resistance, and moisture sensitivity. We’re proud to say that with cellulose e-skin, we’ve created a new film with huge potential for use in the medical industry.”
The reason behind creating a biodegradable ECG patch
Electrical components on a substrate made from fossil-based sources currently comprise ECG patches. The VTT team said healthcare in general remains one of the largest waste-producing sectors in the world. Additionally, they expect electronic waste to grow at a significant clip (increasing by 38% by 2030).
The researchers attribute the issue to the rising demand for small and wearable electronics. Small and complex parts make recycling these items increasingly difficult. A major building block for the European Green Deal is also an incentive for creating more sustainable medical products.
VTT wants to team up with partners interested in industrial-scale manufacturing of sustainable wearable electronics.
“Ours is the first nanocellulose-based ECG patch with no plastic additives. The wider implications go beyond ECG as cellulose e-skin can be used in a wide array of wearable devices in the future. The film is strong, flexible, transparent, breathable and has good printability. Potential other applications could be, for instance, in printed energy storage and harvesting devices,” says Aayush Jaiswal, Research Scientist at VTT.