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Applications of E-textile Pressure Sensors

Akshaya Dinesh ​ Hanna Goldfarb

akshayadinesh19@gmail.com​ ​hgoldfarb@hcrhs.org

​ Diana Sarrico ​Catherine Scanlon ​Sung Hyun (Sunny) Yoo

​diana.sarrico@yahoo.com​ ​ cate.scanlon@aol.com ​ ​sunyoo@bergen.org

Dr. Aaron Mazzeo*


New Jersey’s Governor’s School of Engineering and Technology

July 21, 2017

*Corresponding Authors

ABSTRACT -- In many cases between civilians and law human skin. There are also wearable muscle sensors,
enforcement officers, there is often a lack of substantial allowing users to know whether or not their muscle is
evidence for the court to make an informed decision. By strained or overused in daily life. Thus, e-textiles
creating an electronic T-shirt that records hits to a have potential in recreational clothing, health
policeman’s body, one can determine whether the analytics, geo-tracking, and now police uniforms​[1]​.
officer’s forceful action was instigated and justified. E-textile sensors could further improve law
Tracking pressure changes on a shirt can also help detect
enforcement efficacy by creating another layer of
injuries and determine the severity of an attack. The
transparency and safety.
specific technology used in this project is e-textiles
In cases regarding violent acts between a
(electronic textiles), specifically sensors made using
police officer and a civilian, it can be difficult to
Velostat, a piezoresistive material. Velostat sensors are
constructed using conductive thread in a circuit to send ascertain the exact events that occurred at the scene.
data to an Lilypad Arduino. Spikes in pressure data are Often times, the testimonies offered by the police
represented using a graphical interface for other law officer differ from the civilians’.Wearable technology
enforcement officers to view. The testing and design of is an optimal solution to create more transparency in
this project show that a system including Velostat sensors such cases. Ideally, judges and courts could get a
and Arduinos in e-textiles is a viable, effective method of closer look into the incident and determine whether
providing external evidence in police brutality cases. or not any force inflicted on a civilian was provoked
and justified. To do so, Velostat textiles can be
incorporated into a policeman’s uniform in order to
I. INTRODUCTION measure any force used against the officer. These are
a type of e-textile sensor that can monitor applied
E-textiles incorporate circuitry into wearable pressure. The pressure data can be time-stamped and
clothing by replacing large wires with conductive used alongside video footage to provide more
thread, a nylon thread coated in silver to generate conclusive evidence in trials and more accurate
electric properties. This allows for an inconspicuous indictments​[2]​.
and less intrusive way of using sensors to obtain An equally important application for these
information such as temperature, motion, pressure, Velostat sensors involves an alert system to aid law
and air contaminants. E-textiles that monitor cardiac enforcement agents who are injured in the line of
pulse for arrhythmias, heart attack, or heart failure are duty. If pressure exceeds a particular threshold that
also ideal for analyzing more sensitive areas of the would indicate injury, ideally other squadrons could

be alerted and come to the aid of the law enforcement Moreover, for testing purposes, an
agent in question. INSTRON 44-11 machine is test pressure.​[5] The
This study focuses on creating a wearable Instron machine has an anvil that extends down and
garment that can track applied pressure, allowing for applies force. An Impedance Analyzer is also used
a measurement of physical aggression against police during testing to measure changes in resistance as
officers to settle confusion surrounding contradicting more pressure is continually applied to the sensor.
testimonies in court cases and also facilitate a safety Finally, an Arduino Uno and an Lilypad
alert system. Arduino, as seen in Fig. 1 and 2, are both used
during the process to test the viability of the Velostat
II. BACKGROUND sensor​[6]​. The Arduino Uno ​is a microcontroller board
based on the ATmega328, which features high
2.1 Materials and Tools performance and low power. It has 14 digital
The specific material incorporated into the input/output pins, 6 analog inputs, and a USB
e-textiles sensors constructed throughout this study is connector to upload Arduino-C code. Since the
called Velostat. Velostat is the brand name of a black, Arduino Uno is bulky and not suited for sewing into
carbon-impregnated polyolefin foil originally created a shirt, ​a Lilypad is used for its ability to be sewn into
by Custom Materials, of the company 3M. It is e-textiles and incorporated within a wearable
typically used to protect components sensitive to garment. The Lilypad Arduino is smaller and
electrostatic discharge, and its properties are compact, so a breakout board, which distributes
generally not affected by age or humidity. This power and code, is required to connect it to a
piezoresistive material can be used in a wide range of computer.
pressure and bend sensors, resistive sensors, and
position sensors. This is because it changes electrical
resistance in response to pressure. As force is applied,
the resistance in the polyolefin textile decreases
because the material is compressed and the carbon
molecules become closer together, increasing the
conductivity​[3]​. This is due to Ohm’s Law, which
states that current and resistance are inversely
proportional when voltage is constant. Thus, when
placed between two non-conductive cotton layers and
wired using conductive thread, the Velostat becomes
similar to a variable resistor in a traditional circuit.
For the exact cutting of the Velostat
material, a Silhouette Cameo vinyl cutter is used. A Fig. 1: Lilypad Arduino
corresponding program is used to create exact
measurements on a diagram, which the cutter is then
capable of replicating.
Throughout the study, the Model SE-400
Brother sewing machine is used to construct the
Velostat sensor circuit​[4]​. Also, both conductive
thread and non conductive cotton thread are used in
conjunction with cotton fabric to simultaneously
secure the sensor unit and establish contact points on
the Velostat resistor where the current can travel
through. The conductive thread utilized is
silver-coated nylon, which allows it to conduct
electricity. Fig. 2: Arduino UNO

There are multiple different electrical
components used throughout the construction,
including a breadboard, various resistors, and a
battery. A breadboard is a board used for making an
experimental model of an electric circuit. Resistors
are two-terminal electrical components that are used
to reduce current flow. Finally, a battery is used to
supply voltage through the Velostat circuit and back
to the Arduino.
Fig. 3: Voltage divider diagram
2.2 Software Used
In Fig. 3, R​1 represents the variable
To process data and display the information in a user resistances given by the Velostat. The V​out represents
interface, different programming languages and the Analog input going to the Arduino, which shows
software was used. Here is the list of all the software voltage values that are then converted to resistance.
that was used in the creation of the project: There is an inverse relationship between
pressure applied and resistance from the Velostat,
● MATLAB: MATLAB is a numerical although it is not predictably quantifiable.
computing environment and programming
language used to process the data from
testing to be used for graphing. III. DESIGN PROCESS
● Arduino IDE: This was where the Arduino
code is written to create a connection 3.1 Summary of Design/Creation
between the Arduino microcontroller and The prototype of the wearable was designed
the software. in multiple steps. Multiple smaller prototypes were
● Processing: This software development created to test different configurations of the larger
environment was used to write Java code design. During the process, visual diagrams as well as
that displayed the sensor values in a electrical schematics were made to map out the
graphical user interface, or GUI. design of the product. The Velostat sensors were
● giCentre: A Processing library used to create created using a sewing machine and conductive
a graph of the data and update it in real time. thread. One side of the sensor was connected to
ground, and the other was connected to the analog pin
2.3 Equations that establishes the electric signals as input in the
The main relationship used in analyzing the Arduino hardware. The Arduino is programmed so
circuitry and designing the product is Ohm’s Law: the resistance values were translated into a pressure
and force reading.
3.2 First Proof of Concept and General Construction
The variable “V” is voltage, “I” is current, In order to test the viability of Velostat as a
and “R” is resistance. Ohm’s Law is used to pressure sensor in electronics, an initial prototype
determine the amount of power required by the was created with a large, single Velostat sensor with
Lilypad Arduino and the Arduino UNO. It is also only one point of contact between the conductive
used to calculate the optimal resistors used in series thread on both pieces of fabric. The type of silver
with the Velostat in the voltage divider. coated nylon conductive thread that was used in this
research project was untwisted from 4 ply to produce
a 1 ply product in order to facilitate the sensor array

construction process. Thinning the thread prevented
entanglements in the bobbin of the sewing machine 3.3 Sensor Design
and allowed the conductive thread to be sewn using One major factor of the circuit design to
the embroidery machine. Once the thread was consider was the number of contact points between
completely untwisted, it was threaded around one the patches of fabric. Multiple contact points decrease
bobbin on the sewing machine. The other bobbin the base resistance and too many points of contact
contained nonconductive cotton thread. Thus, when can actually reduce the range of resistance values,
each cotton outer layer was sewn with the circuit which was previously noted during testing of sensors
design, there was only one conductive thread running constructed by Jillian Maling and Mandev Singh.
through. In the first model, a single line was sewn Therefore, the goal was to create as large of a surface
diagonally across a cotton fabric square. These two area for detection without compromising the range of
squares were then arranged with the Velostat in the possible pressure values that could be extrapolated
middle so that the lines crossed each other to create from the sensor by creating too many points of
one contact point. One line became the input lead and contact. For this reason, testing was crucial to ensure
one became the output lead, and both lines of that making a larger Velostat pressure sensor would
conductive thread were tied onto two test wires, still allow for a significant change in resistance
which were then connected to the Arduino Uno for during pressure testing. Two different sensor patterns,
testing. as shown in Fig. 5 and Fig. 6, were designed to have
Additionally, several other stitches of different arrangements of contact points and tested to
nonconductive thread around the circuit design were evaluate the viability of each design over the other.
used to further secure the Velostat within the two The first sensor design featured a boxed grid pattern
cotton layers. This was to ensure that when force was when overlapped and each lead was continuous with
applied, the cotton layer would not slip and provide no branches along the circuit path. One prediction
an inaccurate reading. However, the stitches could with this design was that the resistance would
not be sewn too close to the circuitry, otherwise the increase along the circuit because it was a continuous
punctures in the Velostat would decrease the pathway and thus the pressure values that could be
accuracy of the resistance readings. extrapolated from the sensor would be slightly
This sensor was then placed on one side of a different across different locations on the sensor . The
voltage divider in series with a 10k Ohm resistor. The second sensor featured a finger grid pattern with
center of the voltage divider was then connected to several branches originating from the source lead. It
Analog Input A0 on the Arduino to measure the was designed in parallel in an attempt to reduce linear
voltage across the Velostat sensor. Preliminary tests resistance because each branch was individually
were conducted to determine the changes in shorter than the circuit path in Sensor 1. Testing was
resistance in the Velostat sensor as pressure was then necessary to validate these predictions and
applied. Then, once the initial hypothesis was determine which one would be optimal in the final
confirmed, the basic Velostat circuit was redesigned design.
with more sensors and was connected with
conductive thread rather than physical wires (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4: Initial sensor set-up with voltage divider Fig. 5: 1st Sensor Design

Fig. 7: 1st Sensor Graph

Fig. 6: 2nd Sensor Design

3.4 Sensor Testing

For sensing, both Velostat pressure sensor
designs were analyzed using an impedance analyzer
and an INSTRON pressure machine. First, the
sensors were attached to the impedance analyzer
machine to track the changes in the resistance of the
sensor over time. The sensors were also placed under
the top compressive plate of the Instron machine,
which recorded the extension and force over time.
The Instron machine was set to a maximum
load around 100 Newtons, and the max extension
value was recorded. The two machines Fig. 8: 2nd Sensor Graph
simultaneously recorded the values every 0.02 mm
for time, force, extension, and resistance. The values 3.5 Analysis of Sensors
for each measurement were then inputted into a As shown in the testing, both sensors
MATLAB script that coordinated the time values of produce an inverse relationship between applied force
both sets of data. The outputted data was inputted and resistance. Figures 7 and 8 demonstrate that this
into another MATLAB script that interpolated the inverse relationship was consistent across 3 different
force data and outputted the final set of data. The last trials for Sensor 1, but it was also consistent for
step of the testing process was to input data into Sensor 2. As a result, both can be used to measure
OriginLab and produce graphs. Then, using the pressure. Once this was established, the graphs were
Instron pressure sensor and an impedance analyzer, a then visually compared to determine the differences
graph was generated for each sensor showing the in force and resistance ranges in order to choose the
inverse relationship between pressure applied and optimal design to include in the shirt. In Sensor 1,
resistance for up to 100 N of force, shown in Fig. 7 which corresponds to Fig. 7, resistance and force are
and 8. Testing data was gathered for five locations on more closely related to one another; the relationship
each sensor, including the centers and all four was more linear than that of Sensor 2. For Sensor 2
corners. This was done to determine if the sensors there is no discernable peak in the resistance to
were consistent and if the resistance drops were correspond with the peak in the force, making it so
independent of the location on the sensor where that it is unclear as to when the low point of the
pressure was applied. resistance is reached. Also, in Sensor 2, the force that
the Instron machine applied to the sensor was
unsteady as the force graph rises quickly, plateaus,

and then shows a steep peak again. Similarly, when
no force is applied, the peaks in resistance gradually
increases with each cycle. This is most likely caused
by the Velostat material being misshaped by the
heavy force and exhibiting a spring-like effect when
Once a specific design was chosen, the test
sensors were replicated to scale. The measurements
of each larger sensor were 4.5 inches by 5 inches, Fig. 10: Circuit Design
with 6 sensors on both the front and back, as shown
in Fig. 9. 3.7 Arduino Programming
The sensor system was connected to an
Arduino Uno, which needed to be programmed to
receive sensor values and process them. The code
that read the sensor values through Analog input was
written in Arduino-C. These values were then printed
to a Serial port that transmitted the data through a
USB port to a computer. The next part of the coding
process took place in Processing. Processing is a
visual style-based programming language that is
derived from Java. In this project, Processing was
used to display the values from the sensors in a
graphical user interface (GUI) for easier viewing. In
Fig. 9: Shirt Diagram the code, the values from 6 sensors were first
collected from the Serial port. The Serial Monitor
3.6 Circuit System Design displayed information relayed between the Arduino
Designing the circuit was initially a and the computer, such as the input voltages from
challenge, because the Lilypad Arduino only has 6 Analog pins. Then, the maximum of the values was
analog inputs and there were 12 sensors in the T-shirt taken. This maximum was compared against a
final design. Furthermore, there aren’t enough 5V pre-defined pressure threshold to determine if the
and GND pins on the Lilypad Arduino or Uno to force applied was significant enough to be measured.
connect each sensor to power and ground. The first The threshold was chosen by testing pressure and
problem was solved by using two Lilypad Arduinos voltage values and choosing a significant pressure.
in the final design. Half of the front sensors and half Finally, a short algorithm determines the “spikes,” or
the back sensors were connected to one Lilypad, and relative maxima, of sensor values. These relative
the rest were connected to the other Lilypad. The maxima are recorded into the interface and are added
second problem was solved by placing six voltage as points in a graph, as shown in Fig. 11. Since the
dividers in parallel with each other. Each voltage values are recorded every second, the graph and
divider has a 10k Ohm resistor in series with a interface are dynamically changing as more data
Velostat sensor to separate the voltage between both flows through. This allows for live, real-time data.
components. Wires were used to detect Analog input
voltage at the points between the resistors and sensors
in the circuit. Fig. 10 shows the complete design of
the circuit used in the final product​[7]​.

Fig. 11: Graphical User Interface

Fig. 12: Final Shirt
4.1 Key Findings & Final Testing
It was reaffirmed that force and resistance 4.2 Discussion of Results
are inversely proportional on the Velostat pressure Some possible improvements in the sensors
sensor. Data from Fig. 7 and 8 indicates that as force include using a better conductive thread for the shirt.
is applied to the shirt, resistance decreases Since the thread came as 4-ply, it had to be unraveled
consistently, producing visible change. This allows into four separate threads, so 1-ply would be used on
for reliable, repeatable data, which makes it easy to the shirt. This process was difficult, and often
extrapolate information about how much force was resulted in knotting or fraying of the thread. This
applied to the wearer of the shirt. However, the could lead to an inaccurate measure of
results of the final shirt testing showed slightly voltage/resistance in the material, because the thread
different results. The sensor values coming from the was not uniform throughout the sensors. Fortunately,
Lilypad Arduino had randomized starting values, and such effects were mitigated by placing the conductive
the pressure did not have a strong correlation to thread on the bottom bobbin of the sewing machine.
resistance. The Arduino Uno, however, had much In this study, the final shirt prototype
more consistent values that confirmed the initial consisted of twelve sensors, six in the front and six
hypothesis and testing. This is likely due to bad in the back. However, a future improvement would
connections with conductive thread and resistors on feature a broader array of much smaller sensors. Not
the Lilypad. only would this create a greater detection surface
Overall, the shirt sensor system confirmed area, but less points of contact per sensor would
the initial hypothesis that Velostat pressure sensors create more precise pressure readings.
could be used to detect pressure applied to one’s Finally, by utilizing a sewing software such
body. With the Lilypad Arduino, the sensor values as Embrilliance to create a computer-generated stitch
coming through Analog inputs were consistent and pattern, the stitch pattern could be made more precise
therefore were able to be used to monitor the pressure throughout the sensors. Embrilliance is capable of
applied to the garment. directly sewing a computer pattern without additional
human measurements. This would reduce human
error in manually sewing the product and would
make the testing results more consistent.

5.2 Future of E-Textiles in Law Enforcement
5.1 Summary of Findings E-textiles can further enhance an officer’s
The final shirt design consists of twelve uniform for more complete evidence in court cases.
sensors on the shirt - six on the back and six on the However, while effective, a t-shirt that only detects
front, connected to an Lilypad Arduino on either side the presence of force may not be completely reliable.
of the shirt. After testing two possible sensors, a final This can be rectified with additional equipment, such
sensor was chosen. In particular, the one with the as a heart rate monitor that can determine if the time
most points of contact would ensure greater accuracy of impact was consistent with a sudden change in
on where the police officer was hit. This final sensor heart rate. Also, such a monitor could be
was chosen through tests done with an Instron implemented as a safety device to identify if an
machine, that exerted pressure on this sensor. Next, officer suddenly becomes unconscious in the line of
the sensor was also connected to an Impedance duty. To measure this, a pulse sensor or
Analyzer machine which received the values of electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor could be
resistance from the sensor to be interpreted. incorporated into e-textiles in a manner similar to the
This project demonstrated that a Velostat Velostat pressure sensor. Moreover, such a uniform
pressure sensor is a simple, cost-effective way of can be made more effective with garments that detect
measuring pressure. However, these sensors have changes in motion. In particular, changes in the
some drawbacks, such as being too sensitive to flexion and extension of muscles can be analyzed to
pressure and recording inessential changes in determine the wearer’s precise movements, which
resistance. In addition, the tests were unable to apply can be important for injury and physical therapy
over 120 N to the Velostat, so there is no data to applications. Also, an accelerometer could be
indicate what would occur if this force was exceeded. incorporated to track distance traveled.
However, with more improvement in Velostat Moreover, current technology can be
sensors, they can be revolutionary in providing improved upon through adding a web interface and
evidence for law enforcement cases. wireless control. While the research detects impact on
For each sensor, the force applied to it is an officer, it requires connection with a computer. A
inversely proportional to the resistance. However, wireless module could be used to present the results
when the data from the Instron machine and continuously, and a web interface can keep a running
Impedance Analyzer machine is graphed, it is not tab on changes of pressure on an officer. Such a web
perfectly proportional (See Fig. 7 and 8). This shows interface can also include running video footage,
that there could be some sources of error in the which can be monitored at all times. Combined with
resistance values from the sensors. The correlation an alert system, a sudden change in impact can be
between force and resistance is repeatable, as seen by used to contact other officers to report to the site,
the graph in Figure 13. which can decrease feedback time in serious

5.3 Future of E-Textiles Pressure Sensors

Pressure sensitive e-textiles can also be used
to approach issues in other fields also, simply by
connecting already existing sensors into a wearable
garment and an Lilypad Arduino, which is capable of
analyzing results through a web interface. For
instance, pressure sensitive e-textiles can be
incorporated into sports equipment, such as football
helmets, in order to measure the force of an impact.
Fig. 13: Force and Resistance Vs. Extension Doctors can utilize this data in order to better assess
injuries, especially in patients who may be [3] M. Satomi and H. Perner-Wilson, “Velostat,” in ​How To Get
What You Want​, 2009.
concussed. This can be incredibly valuable in
[4] “SE400,” in ​Brother​.
dangerous occupations, such as working with heavy [5] “Instron Machine 44-11,” in ​Instron​.
machinery. Another possible application of this [6] ​Lilypad Arduino Main Board​. Proc. of Arduino. 2017 Arduino,
technology is as a discrete locking mechanism, which n.d. Web.
can utilize hidden buttons in fabric to unlock [7] “How to Make a Basic E-Textile LED Circuit,” in ​Kitronik​.
backpacks and prevent pickpocketing. There are
countless other recreational applications, such as
incorporating buttons into clothing for remote control
of smartphones and other devices.

A great thanks is in order to the many
mentors who gave help and aid throughout this
project, and to the extremely generous supporters
who allowed this project and program to be possible.
In particular, special gratitude towards Dean Ilene
Rosen, Director of the New Jersey Governor’s School
of Engineering and Technology (GSET) and Dean
Jean Patrick Antoine, Associate Director of the New
Jersey Governor’s School of Engineering and
Technology (GSET), who made it possible for
research to be conducted at such a high level.
Moreover, thanks to Dr. Aaron Mazzeo, Professor of
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering along with
Jillian Maling, a Rutgers Class of 2020 Mechanical
Engineering Major, and Mandev Singh, a Rutgers
Class of 2019 Aerospace Engineering Major. They
were extremely important to the research and creation
of this project, and gave up countless hours to ensure
any aid needed would be received. Another special
thanks to the Governor’s School Residential
Teaching Assistants, in particular, Jacob Battipaglia,
who oversaw the progress of the project, and our
research coordinator Jamie Swartz. Finally, there is
much gratitude to the many sponsors of Governor’s
School: Rutgers University, Rutgers School of
Engineering, The State of New Jersey, Silverline
Windows, Lockheed Martin, and the Alumni of the
NJ Governor’s School of Engineering and

[1] “Electronic Textile (E-Textile),” in ​Techopedia.​
[2] Feeney, Matthew. ​PoliceMisconduct.net​. Proc. of Police Body
Cameras. CATO Institute, 2015. Web.