Biopohjainen EKG-laastari.

Biodegradable ECG patch reduces the carbon footprint of healthcare

Healthcare, which requires strict hygiene, is one of the sectors that produces the most waste in the world. There is a massive need and good market for bio-based materials.

VTT is constantly developing new materials for use in healthcare, particularly for the manufacture of wearable sensors and patches. Their newest innovation is a recyclable ECG patch that is manufactured using nanocellulose and carbon, and which does not contain any fossil plastics. The entirely recyclable electrocardiogram, that is, ECG patch is made of carbon conductors and sensor electrodes printed onto the surface of a nanocellulose base. The device is modular; its electronic components are easy to detach and reuse. The biodegradable patch is made using VTT’s new nanocellulose-based e-skin-x material.

In addition to the ECG patch, the new membrane also has potential for use in many other kinds of wearable devices, which are increasingly being used by consumers in the form of various devices and applications for measuring body functions and well-being.

“The healthcare sector’s environmental footprint is large, and regulations are increasingly pushing manufacturers towards more sustainable products that cause less burden on the environment,” says VTT researcher Vinay Kumar.

“Bio-based materials, such as the e-skin made from cellulose, are promising alternatives to fossil-based substrates. The challenging thing is that they must have certain properties, such as elasticity, tear strength and moisture sensitivity. With the cellulose e-skin, we have created a new membrane that has immense potential for use in the pharmaceutical industry.”  Kumar admits that replacing plastics with bio-based alternatives is not easy. “However, our long-term aim is to achieve sustainable growth with bio-based material solutions. The new materials bring with them good characteristics, such as biodegradability and recyclability, but they do not currently fulfill all of the performance criteria. We are constantly striving to improve the performance of the material to meet the high standards of medical products.”

VTT is currently searching for partners for the industrial manufacture of more green and sustainable wearable sensors and patches.  “Our current development work is focused on utilising biomass in various electronic applications and outside of it. The bottleneck in the introduction of the technology of many new bio-based materials and applications is in scalable processing. Our unique piloting infrastructure combined with our expertise in bio-based material technologies enables us to conquer this bottleneck effectively and sustainably,” says Vinay Kumar.

The nanocellulose-based ECG patch developed by VTT is the first such product that does not use plastic as an added material. The e-skin, manufactured using cellulose, can be used in many kinds of wearable devices in the future. The membrane is strong, flexible, transparent, breathable, and has good printability. Other possible applications include printed energy storage and collection devices.

Read more about VTT’s wearable products’ development work