Your Source of Innovation in the Medical Field
CardiologyFeaturedPrimary CareSpecialtiesTechnologies

Biodegradable ECG Patch: A Sustainable Leap for Wearable Electronics

Biodegradable ECG Patch: A Sustainable Leap for Wearable Electronics
VTT's fully recyclable and biodegradable electrocardiogram (ECG) patch. (Credit: VTT)

A team of Finnish researchers has revolutionized the world of wearable electronic devices with the creation of a fully recyclable and biodegradable electrocardiogram (ECG) patch. This innovative device, made from nanocellulose and carbon conductors, aims to minimize the carbon footprint associated with plastics and electronics in the healthcare industry—one of the largest waste-producing sectors worldwide. 

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland’s device is modular, so electronic components can be easily removed from the disposable patch and used again. The patch itself is made of nanocellulose and printed with carbon conductors and sensing electrodes.

The biodegradable patch is made of VTT’s new material cellulose e-skin, which replaces traditional plastic in wearable skin applications. Therefore it not only offers a sustainable solution but also opens up possibilities for other wearable applications.

The Global Need for Sustainable ECG Patches

An ECG is one of the most established and popular ways to monitor heart conditions. It is used to record the heart’s electrical signal to monitor heart health and assess for heart conditions. Currently, ECG patches are composed of electrical components on a substrate made from fossil-based sources.

The global need for sustainable ECG patches is projected to grow rapidly in the next few years. The global ECG patch and Holter monitor market was valued at USD 1.2 billion in 2022 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 20% from 2023 to 2030.

The growing prevalence of atrial fibrillation, aging and rising incidence of cardiovascular disorders increasingly drive the market’s demand.

Huge Potential in the Medical Industry

Mohammad H. Behfar, Senior Scientist at VTT, explained:

“The healthcare industry has one of the heaviest environmental footprints. Manufacturers are increasingly faced with regulations to make more sustainable products. 

VTT's biodegradable ECG patch (Credit: VTT)
VTT’s biodegradable ECG patch (Credit: VTT)

Bio-based substrates like cellulose e-skin are promising alternatives to fossil-based ones. The tricky part is the fact that they need to possess certain properties like stretchability, tear-resistance and moisture sensitivity. 

We’re proud to say that with cellulose e-skin, we’ve created a new film with huge potential for use in the medical industry.”

(Credit: VTT)
(Credit: VTT)
Research Team Leader Vinay Kumar (middle), Senior Scientist Mohammadhossein Behfar
(left) and Research Scientist Aayush Jaiswal (right) represent the VTT team. (Credit: VTT)
Research Team Leader Vinay Kumar (middle), Senior Scientist Mohammadhossein Behfar (left) and Research Scientist Aayush Jaiswal (right) represent the VTT team. (Credit: VTT)
(Credit: VTT)

One of the Largest Waste-Producing Sectors

Healthcare accounts for 8% of total US emissions and remains one of the largest waste-producing sectors in the world. Plastic is used in medical supplies because it is very inexpensive to source and easy to sterilize.

As a result, plastics account for 25% of the waste generated by hospitals. 91% of plastics are not recycled and end up in landfills or nature.

Plastics account for 25% of the waste generated by hospitals. 91% of plastics are not recycled and end up in landfills or nature. (Credit: Alamy Stock Photo)
Plastics account for 25% of the waste generated by hospitals. 91% of plastics are not recycled and end up in landfills or nature. (Credit: Alamy Stock Photo)

Meanwhile, in 2019, people discarded 53 million tonnes of electronic waste and the number will increase by 38% by 2030. The rising demand for small and wearable electronics is largely responsible for the issue because many small and complex parts make recycling these items increasingly difficult. Less than 20% gets recycled.

Aayush Jaiswal, Research Scientist at VTT, explained:

“Our patch is the first nanocellulose-based ECG patch with no plastic additives. The wider implications go beyond ECG as cellulose e-skin can be used in a wide array of wearable devices in the future. 

The film is strong, flexible, transparent, breathable and has good printability. Potential other applications could be, for instance, in printed energy storage and harvesting devices.”

In Europe, a major incentive for creating more sustainable medical products is the European Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan. It is one of the main building blocks of the European Green Deal, which puts pressure on manufacturers in all industries to create more sustainable products in the face of increased environmental taxation.

VTT is currently looking to team up with partners who are interested in industrial-scale manufacturing of sustainable wearable electronics.

Advertisement
pub
Advertisement
pub
Advertisement
pub
Advertisement
Advertisement