Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Bionic Bra Brought to Life

Advanced materials with embedded sensors have been stitched into a prototype “bionic bra” that automatically tightens in response to breast movement.

Prof Julie Steele of Breast Research Australia (BRA), who has been investigating the movement of women’s breasts during physical activity for more than 15 years, says that inadequate breast support can lead to long-term damage, including numbness in the fingers caused by compression of nerves on the shoulders, as well as neck and back pain.

“Unfortunately, the most supportive sports bras tend to be the most uncomfortable to wear,” she says. Furthermore, “85% of women are wearing bras that do not fit or support their breasts correctly”.

Prof Gordon Wallace of the University of Wollongong says that new actuators and sensing technologies will bring the bionic bra to life. “The advent of approaches such as 3D printing has enabled us to assemble structures containing new sensing technologies to more accurately monitor movement and new artificial muscle technologies to control it,” he said.

“Results indicate that our technologies can sense breast motion and provide additional breast support. The challenge now is to integrate these technologies into a functional, comfortable bra,” added team member Dr Sheridan Gho.

While vast improvements have been made recently to the design of the bionic bra, the researchers say there are still some kinks to iron out. “Although we have made substantial progress, we still have a way to go before the bionic bra can be taken from the benchtop to the washing machine,” Steele said.