These days with everything being digital, using pens/pencils and writing on paper almost feels archaic. However, it seems that maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the humble pencil and paper just yet, especially when researchers have discovered that it is possible to create medical wearables using nothing but that.

Thanks to a team of researchers from the University of Missouri, they discovered that pencils whose cores are made from more than 90% graphite are actually capable of conducting a significant amount of energy when writing on office supply paper. This means that the graphite can be used as a sensing electrode, while the paper’s inherent flexible capabilities means that it can be placed anywhere on the body and fold/curve around the body part and skin.

There is also the upside of how paper and pencils seem to be readily available and are relatively inexpensive, plus there are environmental benefits as they tend to degrade faster compared to plastic. They can also be used to quickly create sensors and help with more personalized solutions.

According to Zheng Yan, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering, “For example, if a person has a sleep issue, we could draw a biomedical device that could help monitor that person’s sleep levels. Or in the classroom, a teacher could engage students by incorporating the creation of a wearable device using pencils and paper into a lesson plan. Furthermore, this low-cost, easily customizable approach could allow scientists to conduct research at home, such as during a pandemic.”

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