Do you know the movie “Innerspace“? Accidentally a man finds himself with his submarine in the body of another man. Shrunk to a microscopic size the man travels in his submarine through the arteries of his host, communicates with him and tries to save himself. In the end, of course, he successfully manages to do this. I was fascinated by this movie, I still remember some of the scenes, even though I saw the movie a long time ago.
I was reminded of “Innerspace“ when I was talking to Dr. Hans-Jürgen Wachter, Executive Vice President Heraeus New Businesses – Technology & Scouting at Heraeus Germany. Our topic: very fine, high-tech wires that are used in medical applications, directly in the human body. For example as connectors to pace maker electrodes. Heraeus, headquartered in Hanau, Germany, is technology partner of Teiimo for the iinMotion system. Teiimo was able to integrate electronics so delicately into the garment that athletes don´t feel it, also thanks to metallic threads from Heraeus which Teiimo uses in the textile interconnect system. Origins of these threads is medical technology. They are the luxury class of electric wires you could say. Since what is used in medical has to pass strict certifications and has to have outstanding characteristics. “They have to be biocompatible and very robust“, says Dr. Wachter. „For the application inside the human body electric wires also need to be very thin and fine. “ And there is the conductivity. High conductivity means energy saving. Batteries last longer.
In the iinMotion shirt and bra thin, flexible heart rate electrodes are integrated. Textile conductors, thus thin, stretchable, flexible textile wires connect them with the electronics unit on the back. All of it is so unobtrusive that athletes don´t feel it. Shirt and bra are very comfortable. And washable, of course!
For Heraeus the partnership with Teiimo is a first. “Normally we stay in the clean room with our electrodes and material“, says Dr. Wachter. “The textile world is new ground for us. Teiimo is a partner who is familiar with the requirements there and who – as technology leader – translates our conductive materials into a new type of application.“
Worldwide, Heraeus employs 12,400 people. 700 are working in R&D. The investment there is 150 million Euros per year. For example conductive polymers or functional carbons that are highly conductive and can be used for pressure sensors are coming out of the R&D activities. It goes without saying that there are already some patents registered for Heraeus.
“Flexible electronics are the future“, says Dr. Wachter. “iinMotion is a door opener for many future applications, and it offers athletes at this stage a new view on their performance.“