2009 IEEE 11th International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics

Kyoto International Conference Center, Japan, June 23-26, 2009

Comparison of Surface EMG Monitoring Electrodes for Long-term
Use in Rehabilitation Device Control
C. Pylatiuk, M. Müller-Riederer, A. Kargov, S. Schulz, O. Schill, M. Reischl and G. Bretthauer,
Member of IEEE

Abstract— In this paper different types of electrodes for evaluate different electrode materials and test their
long-term surface EMG recording are compared to a practicability in comparison with AG/AgCl electrodes and
reference electrode that is established for clinical use. The especially in vivo tests are still lacking.
electrode materials include four different polymers with
conductive load and a fabric of threads coated by a
conductive layer. Different criteria are used to evaluate
surface EMG recording: the signal quality, including signal- Electrodes for surface EMG monitoring that can be
to-noise (SNR) ratio, and impedance in long-term integrated in a textile or in a silicone liner have to comply
monitoring. The aim of the study is to find an EMG electrode with different requirements. Ideally, they have to be
that allows for both silicone liner and textile integration for
biocompatible and sufficiently soft and flexible to provide
control of rehabilitation devices for quadriplegics with a
partial residual function of the upper limb and for a good wearing comfort, thus resulting in wide acceptance
multifunctional prosthetic hands. Besides electrical by the patients. They also have to ensure a good signal
properties, the biocompatibility and the wearing comfort quality during long-term use. Finally, they have to be
have to be considered to achieve a wide acceptance by the robust enough to be washed repeatedly together with the
patients. Except for one evaluated electrode, the signal carrier textiles.
quality of the four different surface electrodes is comparable
Appropriate sensors for surface EMG monitoring are
to commercial Ag/AgCl gel electrodes in long-term
monitoring. needed that comply with the above criteria. In a first step
different potential electrode materials have to be evaluated
I. INTRODUCTION clinically with regard to their signal quality.

P EOPLE with paraplegia or amputation of the upper
extremity suffer from the loss of motoric functions and
in particular of the gripping function. This may lead to

A. Electrode Materials
life-long dependence on helping persons and means a
Five different materials were investigated and are
considerable restriction of the quality of life. The
depicted in table 1. Three of them consist of various types
paramount objective of modern rehabilitation medicine is
of Pt-catalyzed polysiloxane (“silicone rubber”) with a
to at least partly restore the individual functional defects.
biocompatibility certificate according to ISO 10993. By
Powered prosthetic and orthotic devices can provide the
loading with carbon or unspecified nanoparticles,
patient with autonomy. However, high fidelity signals
electrical conductivity was achieved [2]. Additionally, a
from monitoring electrodes are required that ensure
textile electrode (#4) consisting of Elitex® threads [3]
unchanged signal quality for a long period and easy
(galvanically modified silvered threads made of polyamide
application. Ideally, the sensors and stimulation system
yarn) was evaluated. This electrode has to be saturated
should be integrated in silicone rubber liner or textiles to
with electrolyte dilution for operation as a surface EMG
provide high wearing comfort without skin irritation.
electrode. The electrode is supplied by the Textile
Commercial Ag/AgCl electrodes that are applied in
Research Institute Thuringia Vogtland (TITV), Greiz,
clinical practice typically comprise an electrolyte gel to
Germany. The material used to assemble electrode #5 is
ensure functioning. However, these electrodes may cause
based on a flexible thermoplastic elastomer loaded with
skin irritation and allergies and the electrolyte gel dries up
silver-coated glass microspheres, resulting in a highly
with time, causing a drastic decrease of the signal quality
conductive compound that is usually intended for
[1]. Thus, dry electrodes have been proposed as an
electromagnetic interference (EMI) gasket applications.
alternative for long-term monitoring of biopotentials like
All electrodes were connected via a snap fastener to the
ECG, EEG, and EMG [1, 2]. Nevertheless, studies to
leads of the data acquisition equipment and the
manufacturing process is illustrated in Fig. 1. The
I. Manuscript received February 5, 2009. This work was supported different types of electrodes are depicted in Table 1 and
by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the Fig. 2.
funding program “Innovative aids”. The project “Orthojacket” is a health
research cooperation between science and industry.
C. Pylatiuk, M. Müller-Riederer, A. Kargov, S. Schulz, O. schill, M.
Reischl and G. Bretthauer are with the Institute for Applied Computer
Science, Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, Hermann-von-Helmholtz-Platz-
1, D-76344 Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, GERMANY (corresponding
author’s phone: +49-7247-82-2430; fax: +49-7247-82-5786; e-mail:

9781-4244-3789-4/09/$25.00 ©2009 IEEE 300

Data acquisition with different loads. 50 µA measurement signal was provided with a electrode setup with a copper counter electrode held on frequency of 100 Hz by a precision impedance the same side was applied. 2. a Powerlab® 4/20 data acquisition system. right side: Textile electrodes Static muscle contraction signals and periods without B. and rectification. Two test routines were Two layers of conductive silicone (black) enclose a copper mesh and performed to assess the electrode’s monitoring are bonded to a textile. respectively. The subjects had no history or clinical signs of upper Fig.N. Then.8 4 polyamide thread silver coating 0. electrodes were applied consecutively with an elastic band to the biceps muscle belly of six healthy test persons with 2) Electrode characterization by assessing electrode-to- an inter-electrode distance of 3 cm. A three. Fig. 3. Pre-processing of the raw signals included differential amplification. Data acquisition was times within 3 h.2 thermoplastic silver-coated 0. notch filtering of 50 Hz. Data acquisition of the EMG signals was performed with a sampling frequency of 2 kHz using a BioAmp®. Left side: Dual Ag/AgCl gel electrodes (=reference electrode). Signal-to-noise ratios #272. 3 polysiloxane carbon 2. performed with weights of 1. The of the two circular conductive areas is 2 cm. capabilities: 1) Signal quality: The test persons were asked to lift five conductive resistance times their forearm against gravity until elbow flexion # carrier material of 90° was achieved and to maintain the position for 5 load [Ω/cm] seconds. Six healthy colleagues (age 25-41 years) participated in the experiment after signing an informed-consent form. Australia). Mean values were computed using the gel electrodes for surface EMG applications (product Matlab® toolbox Gait-CAD [5]. and 7 kg added to 2 polysiloxane carbon 9 the hand (Fig. Different electrodes used in this study. Evaluation intentional muscle contraction were detected As a reference.01 5 elastomer glass Table 1. Center: Polysiloxane- based electrodes.. Santa Clara. inter-electrode distance is 2 cm. performed according to the recommendations for non- invasive surface EMG recording provided by the 301 . USA). the same movements had to be 1 polysiloxane nanoparticles N. 2. The (SNR) were calculated for each measurement and diameter of each of the two circular conductive areas is 1 correlations were calculated between the signals of cm. completed five minutes after the application of the Measurements of the impedance were repeated 16 electrodes and repeated after 60 min. extremity injury or dysfunction. and LabChart® software (all from AD Instruments Ltd. 3. The diameter of each skin impedance in a two-electrode configuration. USA) were utilized. Schematic view of the electrode’s manufacturing process. SENIAM project [4]. Sydney. Fig. The measurements were analyzer (HP4294A from Agilent. Scottsdale. high-pass and low-pass filtering with cut-off frequencies of 10 and 500 Hz. Noraxon Inc. 3). adhesive dual-snap disposable Ag/AgCl automatically. 1.. The five different electrode materials evaluated and their conductive loads and resulting resistances. The other five the Ag/AgCl gel electrode and the other electrodes.

0 low load 1 2 3 4 5 6 200 -0.8 0. who exerted low muscle contraction Five minutes after application of the electrodes. was corresponding measurements of the first. IV. RESULTS fifth electrode did not correlate with the corresponding signals of the Ag/AgCl gel electrode. 4 and 5.0 6 and 7. 6.4 150 -0. The SNRs of electrode #5 the reference electrode. The SNR of electrode #1 was highest with electrode and correlated negatively in test person #4. ranged application of the electrodes. Again. 1. 5.0 0. and third electrode correlated highly with Sixty minutes after application of the electrodes. which is reflected by a average SNRs of electrodes #1 and #4 decreased.98.98. Lower SNRs were calculated range of 0.2 test person # -0. 1. etc. 16:1. Correlations of the five different electrodes with the Ag/AgCl electrode material # gel electrode five minutes after application to the skin of the six test persons. 302 . etc. gray bar with dots= material #2. whereas coefficient in the range of ρ=0.) electrode material # Fig. gray bar 1 2 3 4 5 Ref with dots= material #2. the average SNRs of electrodes #2 and #3 and of the decreased average correlations (ρ=0.8 -1. which is reflected by an average correlation coefficient of ρ=0.0 1 2 3 4 5 6 150 -0. the the signals measured 5 and 60 min. the first. The correlations of As a second criterion to evaluate signal quality.4 100 -0. Correlations of the same five electrodes with the reference 0 electrode one hour after application. Average SNRs recorded with 5 different electrode materials and the Ag/AgCl reference electrode (Ref) 5 min.0 50 Fig.2 200 0.) Fig.4 250 high load signal-to-noise ratios (SNR) low load 0.2 test person # -0. The signals from the fifth electrode when no extra load had to be exerted by the biceps muscle did not correlate with the data from the Ag/AgCl gel (low load). 7. highest (light graybar) and high muscle contraction (dark gray bar). after application of the electrodes. second.8 -1.76) were found reference electrode increased compared to the results between the signals of the fourth electrode material and found after five minutes.91 to 0. Correlations with Reference Electrode The signals of the five electrode materials were B.95. correlations were found between the signals of the reference electrode and those of the third electrode. The signals recorded with between 4:1 and 9:1. except for electrode #5. The others. the those of the reference electrode. A.4 300 0. High average correlations were also found The average SNR of all electrode materials used to between the data of the Ag/AgCl gel electrode and the record surface EMG signals.2 250 signal-to-noise ratios (SNR) high load 0. after application of the electrodes to the test persons with low load on the muscle (light gray bar) and high load on the muscle (dark gray bar). and in the range of 76:1 to 264:1 when an extra load of 7 kg fourth electrodes with correlation coefficients of ρ in the had to be lifted (high load). calculated for the data recorded 5 and 60 min. after application of the electrodes to the test persons.6 correlation coefficients ρ 0. Signal-to-noise Ratios (SNR) evaluated in comparison with the signals provided by an Ag/AgCl gel electrode as a reference. respectively. (black bar= material #1. Comparable correlations were found sixty minutes after including the Ag/AgCl reference electrode. Average SNRs recorded 60 min. The results are given in Figs.97 to 0.8 300 0. 0.0 0 1 2 3 4 5 Ref Fig. However. 4.6 50 -0. after application of the ratios of the signal to the background noise were electrodes are depicted in Figs.6 100 -0. followed by electrode #4 with 14:1. the data recorded with the remained on a low level. (black bar= material #1. second.6 correlation coefficients ρ 0.

Temporal behavior of electrode-skin impedance of 5 different of electrode materials #2 and #5 dropped down to a range electrode materials within 3 h. the impedance of electrode #4 increased steadily due to 100 drying up of the electrolyte dilution. the conductive textile assessed electrodes proved to have higher SNRs than the material delivered a good signal quality as long as the reference electrode. ●=electrode #3. however. Nevertheless. It was demonstrated by Fig. it has to be considered that the signals were recorded under ideal conditions in this study. In clinical practice the EMG signal quality may decrease 303 . Sixty conductive yarn also delivered a good signal quality as minutes after application of the electrodes to the test long as the electrode was saturated with electrolyte person’s skin. signal quality of all three electrode) Polysiloxane electrodes was good already five minutes after attaching them to the test persons` biceps muscles. whereas the impedances of the determined prior to any EMG surface data acquisition. Five minutes after application of the electrodes. and a simplified models of an electrical 400 equivalent circuit are given in [1. other electrodes remained in the range of 30 and 70 kΩ. signal quality decreased dilution. resulting in a significant decrease of signal quality. indicating robust signal conduction. when fixation of the electrodes is The sequential progression of the electrode-to-skin insufficient and motions between the electrode and the impedances for the different electrode materials is given in patients’ skin cause disturbance.5 MΩ. However. The impedance is a complex resistance to alternating currents. the impedance of the textile electrode SENIAM recommendations [4]. Additionally these electrodes are some of the other electrodes evaluated reached better ideally suited for textile integration being part of a control SNRs than those calculated for the reference electrode. system for powered upper limb rehabilitation system [7]. the lowest impedance was found for the textile electrode (material #4). All three Polysiloxane electrode materials significantly due to evaporation of the electrolyte dilution. During the first two hours after application of the electrodes to the test 300 persons` skin. the [1] that as perspiration builds up and hydrates the skin electrode-to-skin impedance of the textile electrode (#4) layer artefact levels from movements are lower in dry and of the reference electrode were below 50 kΩ only. whereas the impedances Fig. Moreover. the impedances of all The electrode-to-skin impedance has a major impact on electrodes except for #2. The electrode-skin impedances of electrode materials 0 0 30 60 90 120 150 180 #1 and #3 decreased to below 50 kΩ within the first 20 time [min] min. Additionally. which was even lower than Impedance [kΩ] 200 that of the reference electrode. It is expected that they can The signals recorded with Ag/AgCl gel electrodes were be used for monitoring EMG signals in multifunctional assumed to be the “gold standard” in this study. After one hour. were in the range of 10 and 50 signal quality in EMG surface recording. 8.C. signals of the highly conductive of three different material combinations of Polysiloxane elastomer material used for electrode #4 did not correlate and conductive load produce signals in EMG surface with the signals measured with the reference electrode and recordings that correlate highly with the corresponding the SNRs were the lowest of all electrodes evaluated in signals of Ag/AgCl gel electrodes. In contrast to this. This applied especially when no extra load had to be lifted Further measurements with different electrode designs and by the test persons and their biceps muscles exerted only patients suffering from paraplegia are needed for low forces resulting in lower EMG signals. A textile electrode made of electrode was saturated with electrolyte dilution. identifying the best suitable surface EMG electrode. inter-individual differences of correlations with the signals obtained with an Ag/AgCl gel electrode-to-skin impedances depending on different skin electrode as a reference. ■= electrode #5. indicating that sufficient sweat was produced between the skin and the electrodes that served as an electrolyte. the impedance has to be increased continuously. After one hour. ∆=electrode #2. Additionally. CONCLUSION high electrical conductivity does not ensure good signal It was demonstrated in this study that electrodes made quality. electrodes than in Ag/AgCl electrodes. however. 2]. prosthetic hands [6]. 8. both five and 60 minutes after application of the electrodes. 2] and the Evaluation of the signal amplitudes depending on the impedances of all electrodes are much lower than those of load added to the forearm revealed that all three steel or aluminum electrodes [1] which are in the range of polysiloxane-based electrode materials exhibited high 0.g. o=electrode #4. For example. VI. However. According to the kΩ. EMG surface monitoring is limited to a short time can be used for “dry” signal acquisition without the use of unless the textile electrodes are drenched repeatedly. after electrode application. (□=electrode #1. two of the this study. The V. High correlations were found types have to be considered [1]. Electrode-to-skin Interface Impedance significantly e. DISCUSSION findings comply with the results found by [1. *= reference of 40 to 80 kΩ. assessed in this study are flexible and biocompatible and Hence. any electrolyte gel or dilution. Twenty minutes after application.

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