Researchers at Stanford University and the University of California-Berkeley have created a wearable sensor that can continuously collect and monitor users’ sweat on the molecular level, and send the information via Bluetooth to a smartphone. The prototype unit is a flexible sensor bandage that wraps around the wrist or the head (like a sweatband), which contains five sensors and a flexible circuit board. While the bandage would need to be replaced often, the flexible circuit board is reusable.
“Human sweat contains physiologically rich information, thus making it an attractive body fluid for noninvasive wearable sensors,” Ali Javey, the principal investigator and a professor at UC-Berkeley, said in a statement. “However, sweat is complex and it is necessary to measure multiple targets to extract meaningful information about your state of health. In this regard, we have developed a fully integrated system that simultaneously and selectively measures multiple sweat analytes, and wirelessly transmits the processed data to a smartphone. Our work presents a technology platform for sweat-based health monitors.”
The built-in sensors can analyze the four constituent particles of sweat: sodium ions, potassium ions, glucose sugar and lactate. From there, the technology could provide athletes with useful information such as stress level, and drug levels in their bloodstream. Also, it could be used for diabetes management.
The device will have applications in population health studies, and eventually open up volumes of new data that can be used in Stanford’s Precision Medicine initiative. Also, at some point in the future, we may see it in mass-market activity trackers.
“When studying the effects of exercise on human physiology, we typically take blood samples,” George Brooks, a coauthor on the study, said in a statement. “With this non-invasive technology, someday it may be possible to know what’s going on physiologically without needle sticks or attaching little, disposable cups on you.”