Researchers have made a highly-sensitive and stretchy medical sensor out of an unexpected material: chewed up Doublemint gum. A team from the University of Manitoba and the Manitoba Children’s Hospital Research Institute incorporated carbon nanotubes into chewing gum and recently demonstrated that their invention works surprisingly well.
To make the biosensor, a researcher first chewed Doublemint gum for half an hour, then soaked it in ethanol to clean it, and let it sit overnight. The next day, the researchers incorporated a solution of carbon nanotubes into the gum by stretching and folding it. By adding the carbon nanotubes, the gum could conduct electricity and even detect humidity levels. Most medical sensors are made of metal and plastic, which makes them limited by their stiffness. The Doublemint sensor, on the other hand, is completely flexible, so it could be used to measure a wide range of movements.
Experiments demonstrated that the sensor remained highly-sensitive, even when it was stretched by as much as 530 percent. The researchers suggest several possible applications, such as using it as a strain gauge or to detect breathing. It sounds a bit silly at first, but the gum sensor is actually quite practical, and the research is described in a paper that published in the scholarly journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.