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Jul 12, 2016 10:36 AM EDT

MIT Researchers Create Wearable Toxic Gas Sensor Lighter Than Paper; Military, Refineries Can Benefit

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology wearable toxic gas sensor was created by four researchers. The device functions by detecting toxic gases and warn users by talking to the smartphones or other wireless devices when danger is near.

Researchers, who have developed wearable toxic gas sensors, also hope to create badges that weigh less than an average credit card so the military can wear them easily in battlefields.

MIT toxic gas sensor updates a smartphone or other wireless devices when a conduction of the nanotubes occurs. It can help people who are exposed to toxic gases like a Sarin gas. The polymer breaks causing the insulation to disappear and makes the nanotubes touch one another forming a conduction. When there's a conduction, the signal is directly sent to a smartphone or other wireless devices.

To detect the signal, the phone or device should be equipped with a near field communication (NFC) technology. The NFC allows devices to transmit data over short distances without using internet connection. The wearable toxic gas sensor has an irreversible response. This means that the wearers can see when they've been exposed to amounts of toxic gas even if it's undetected in the air.

MIT toxic gas sensor leading author and Chemistry professor Timothy Swager described the technology in the journal of American Chemical Society. The co-authors of the study are postdoctoral candidate Shinsuke Ishihara and PhD students Markrete Krikorian and Joseph Azzarelli.  

Swager said that soldiers already carry a lot of equipment and communication devices and at present, wearable toxic gas sensors are not used by soldiers. Swager also said that soldiers have many detectors, but they are not the type that can be carried easily, especially in the battlefield.

The wearable toxic gas sensor is said to weigh less than a piece of paper. The sensor is built out of a circuit filled with carbon nanotubes. These tubes are cylindrical and looks similar to little wires.

Wearable gas sensors are likened to electrical wires because they are wrapped in plastic to secure them from harsh effects of the external environment. However, the nanotubes used on the wearable gas sensors are wrapped with a polymer material rather than plastic because the latter would be unable to insulate the nanotubes.  

The wearable toxic gas sensor is made up of a wearable badge and a communication device which may also be beneficial applications in refineries where workers are prone to toxic chemical exposures.

MIT's wearable toxic gas sensor has already been given licensed to by C2Sense to develop the product, Tech Crunch reported.

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