A new T-shirt designed by EU researchers could assist athlethes with the ability to improve their performance and prevent injury. As part of the ConText Project, a project with the mission of producing clothing to measure electrophysiological activity from the body, this shirt can send muscle movement information to a computer using sensors.
These disc-shaped sensors are 12 millimeters wide constructed of three conductive layers. Two layers are made of knitted polyamide fabric and silver-coated thread printed onto it just as a logo would be printed onto a shirt. These layers are the shield and the sensor. The third layer is made of polyurethane for insulation.
Sensors measure the electrical activity produced from muscle contractions. The electrical field created by this movement generates a small charge built up in the sensor, as muscles contract. The signal is then amplified by a circuit board and sent to a computer wirelessly. The results can then be analyzed.
One concern with these sensors was that there would be interference from other waves such as radio signals, or interference caused from a shirt. However, attaching these sensors directly to skin makes natural performance more difficult. This new prototype will eliminate that problem.
“The sensor can even measure the [muscles’] electric field through another T-shirt—it’s very unobtrusive,” says Torsten Linz, researcher from Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration and team member.
This is possible because the sensors pick up the electric displacement current using a capacitive coupling to the body. This means there is a transfer of energy through measuring the amount of electric charge stored or separated. As a result, the sensor shirt can be worn over clothing instead of being applied directly to the skin with liquid gel.
The prototype for the body-sensing shirt was tested on hockey players. From the sensors, the players were able to see how they were using their various muscles and how to adjust their movements for accuracy.
It could also be useful for other sports such as tennis and golf that require repetitive movements. The computer would show athletes exactly which muscles they were using for each specific movement. Players could improve on their techniques and modify how they use their strength to further improve their performance.
Eventually, the device could also be used in training to help prevent athletes from straining muscles, therefore preventing injury. The computer could display of muscles that are being used and overworked, allowing athletes to adjust motions to enhance performance quality.
Sarah Crowell is a staff writer for Idea Buyer LLC, a new product development company that owns and operates IdeaBuyer.com- The Online Marketplace for Intellectual Property. The site gives inventors the opportunity to showcase their intellectual property to consumer product companies, entrepreneurs, retailers, and manufacturers. Edited by Lindsey Yeauger, Director of Communication, Idea Buyer LLC.