Researchers in the UK have developed a flexible, photonic, textile-based sensor that can be embedded into clothing to continuously monitor the wearer's heartbeat and blood flow.

A study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface explains how the fibre optic material can be produced quickly and then woven, knitted, or embroidered into existing fabrics, forming flexible, wearable sensors that seamlessly integrate into clothes.

"The resulting sensor shows flexibility when embroidered into a moisture-wicking fabric, and withstands disinfection with hospital-type laundry cycles," researchers explain. "Additionally, the new sensor textile shows a lower static coefficient of friction (COF) than conventionally used bedsheets in both dry and sweaty conditions versus a skin model."

The study is part of a wider project being carried out to develop sensors that can monitor health signs in paraplegic patients.

Of its new development, the researchers say: "Our results will allow the development of flexible, individualised, and fully textile-integrated wearable sensors for sensitive skin conditions and general long-term monitoring of patients with risk for pressure ulcer."