Electrocardiogram (ECG) Shirt

In October 2021 we received seed funding from the Institute of Chemical Biology (ICB) BOOST programme to develop wearable, stretchable & flexible electronics culminating in the development of an electrocardiogram (ECG) prototype shirt.

Over the past year we have encountered many challenges but have stayed true to our self-set project brief “Electronics in the 3rd Dimension”. To demonstrate the potential, several iterations of wearable electrodes have been developed for the ECG shirt, throughout our journey new team members have joined us & we have gone through several designs.

While our original team of scientists were well suited to the development of the core technology, we realised early on that we needed help with the design and fabrication of the wearables. At this point, our team has expanded to computational designers, fashion designers, electrical engineers, and fabric specialists. Their broad experience in project management and design enabled the ideation of the first prototype.

To inform the design brief we performed market validation with clinicians that had experience using ECGs with patients. A survey showed us that clinicians were interested in the device and that pursuing it would be worthwhile.

We also conducted interviews with the clinicians which suggested the shirt would be perfect for the commercial sector, fitting in with the growing health/exercise market currently dominated by smart watches such as Fitbits and Apple watches. We verified that the smoothest route to market would be to partner with an established sports clothing brand.

The design process made use of 3D scanning technology and AI generated design to model the electronic components and produce concepts for the final product. These design concepts inspired some of our biggest technological advances and helped form an aesthetic of our nascent start-up company.

The first generation of wearable electrodes we built were screen-printed conductive carbon on cotton. They were low-cost & easy-to-manufacture but their conductivity was poor, and the brittle carbon tended to crack. We decided to investigate other flexible carbon materials to improve on this.

Our second generation of wearable electrodes were manufactured from carbon fibre fabric. This material was flexible, low-cost & easy to incorporate into the design of the ECG shirt. To test the electrodes, we built a custom micro-controller to connect to the wearable electrodes and record the ECG signal. These carbon fibre electrodes meet our design and scientific briefs, but we are continuing to conduct research into wearable tech to create something truly revolutionary.

We have developed a working prototype consisting of a sports top which demonstrates our wearable ECG technology. In the next few months, we will use it to facilitate bespoke wearables and pursue further investment and partnerships with established brands aiming at the wearable fitness tracker market.

For more information on the project or to discuss partnerships, investments & collaborations please contact us at o.griffiths19@imperial.ac.uk or s.bhatt19@imperial.ac.uk. You can also follow us on Instagram.