December 21, 2017 | Matthew B. Boyd

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Wearable Technology and Flexible Materials


Wearable technology is no longer the wave of the future. It's the wave of the present--and flexible materials are playing an incredible role in the wearable technology industry. From smartwatches that can pick up phone calls and texts and run apps to fitness or emotional wellness devices that are designed to track overall health, wearable devices can accomplish incredible things, especially thanks to the role of flexible materials in their use.


Why Flexible Materials?

Smartphones and other handheld devices are typically made out of hard, heavy plastic and metal. Those materials, however, are inappropriate for wearable devices, which typically go with the user wherever they go. Instead, wearable devices are typically made out of flexible materials that are light, comfortable, and flexible enough to move with the user. 

Flexible materials are also more suitable for use in the healthcare industry. Not only do they offer comparatively inexpensive mass production in many cases, but they're also often more portable and easier to use than traditional hard constructs. As an added bonus, they're considerably more comfortable for the user, taking up less space on the body and requiring less discomfort than many of the devices currently used to monitor a wide range of symptoms. 


Current Advances in Flexible Materials in Wearable Technology

Current advances in wearable technology have made flexible materials increasingly important. Flexible materials are used to create the batteries, sensors, and other electronic components that make up wearable devices, making it easier than ever for many users to keep their devices on them 24/7. An increasing number of these materials are also waterproof, which means that fitness devices don't have to come off to shower, swim, or run in the rain. The increase in smart fabrics makes it possible for devices to absorb information in more ways than ever before. 

While the novelty of these devices is certain to cause a stir, there's one element that's even more important: the cost and effort required to create them. Thanks to the most recent advances in flexible materials, these devices remain simple and cost-effective to produce, making the products created by them easy to find for the general public. 



The Future of Flexible Materials in Wearable Technology

Wearable technology has already managed to accomplish incredible things. In the future, however, it has the potential to do even more, including:

  • Materials that are able to harness energy, including kinetic energy, heat energy, and sunlight. 
  • Paper that changes color based on hydration.
  • Fabrics that are designed to absorb and harness energy.
  • Graphene, which can be used to create flexible displays and other technological advancements that make wearable devices more comfortable than ever.
  • Enhanced, flexible motion sensors that can tell more about what the user is doing.
  • Stretchable batteries created from fabric.
  • Flexible health sensors that can deliver more information about a patient's health than ever.
  • Textiles that can help both warm and cool the people wearing them, doing double duty based on the individual's current need.
  • Washable solar cells that make recharging easier than ever.

Wearable technology is also helped along by the creation of a gold foil "grown" from a base of a single silicon crystal. This great product has the potential to revolutionize smartphones, fitness trackers, and other current devices flooding the market. Not only is the material flexible and suitable for electronics, but it's also tough enough to withstand the daily hazards of smart technology use. 


Watch our video series about biomedical innovation.



The future of wearable technology is incredible--and it's coming faster than most people think. Thanks to the wide availability of flexible materials and their use, it's possible to create an amazing impact on the wearable technology sector. Before long, wearable devices will be able to do things that today's professionals have barely even dreamed of. 


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