Photonic textile sensors for use in sports and medicine

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering


During the last few years there has been a massive increase in the availability of wearable technology, with much of the application focussed on health and fitness. Initially the primary market was professional sports teams who were offered technology that would provide a record of the distance their players had covered.

These products matured and started recording mechanical information through accelerometers and gyroscopes, and biological information in the form of pulse
monitors. Much of this technology is now available to everyday users as an app on their phone, or as wearable technology such as a watch.

Gathering information on what is happening inside the body in real time remains a struggle. Even at the elite sports level much of the analysis of the body's functions is done via wet testing after the event has taken place. Technology that can monitor inside the body is often unsuitable for use during the sporting event itself due to the size and complexity of the equipment needed.

The next generation of wearable sports technology needs to be able to track biological changes happening inside the body whilst the athlete is competing. This means that the sensor needs to be lightweight and small so it does not interfere with the movements of the competitor. One of the strongest candidates for this is 'smart clothing', where the sensor is attached to, printed onto, or woven into materials the athlete would be wearing anyway.

During my research I will be exploring different ways of using photonic textiles to make measurements of physiological changes occurring inside the body. One area of interest is compression clothing and bandages, where it is hoped a system can be designed that will measure the pressure being exerted by the textile, as well as indicators for the recovery of the tissue. This should be of interest to sports science and medicine as it will allow a comparison of the pressure ('tightness') of the bandage to the rate of muscle recovery.

Another key area of interest is designing a wearable device that will monitor oxygen saturation of muscle tissue for signs of fatigue. This can be used to calculate the metabolic threshold of an athlete, which can be used to track fitness and customise training programs. It is hoped this can be further developed to monitor lactate directly and potentially other biomarkers of fatigue. I would also look to monitor other chemicals in the blood that can indicate when a muscle is being overused and warn of potential injury. Other potential areas of interest include monitoring sweat lactate and carbon dioxide emission from the skin, both of which would build on research already being carried out within the department.




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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/W503162/1 13/04/2021 12/04/2022
1940009 Studentship NE/W503162/1 30/09/2017 02/02/2022