Until now, monitoring your heart often required uncomfortable chest straps or other awkward tests. Researchers at Rice University are changing the process with their development of smart clothing with conductive carbon nanotube threads woven into regular athletic apparel. The fibers are comfortable and flexible, and the zigzag stitching pattern allows the fabric to stretch without breaking the fibers.  The carbon nanotube threads are as conductive as metal wires, and the clothing is machine washable. 

The original nanotube filaments were too thin for a sewing machine (about 22 microns wide) so the researchers worked with a rope maker to create bundle the threads, essentially three bundles of seven filaments each, into a thickness roughly the size of a traditional thread. The research team is working with the Texas Heart Institute to determine how to maximize contact with the skin. 

The fibers provide steady electrical contact with the wearer’s skin and served as electrodes allowing transmission to Bluetooth transmitters to a Holter monitor. The shirt outperformed traditional EKGs conducted using commercial medical electrode monitors and was better at taking live measurements than the standard chest-strap monitors.