New Wearable Sensor Can Collect Data From Sweat

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France wiped sweat from his face during the Australian Open. Researchers say their new wearable sensor can measure perspiration for conditions like dehydration and fatigue.

Wearable monitors measure heart rate, body temperature and other health indicators. For the first time, a flexible, wearable sensor can collect data about multiple chemicals in body sweat.

The device could help people monitor conditions like dehydration and fatigue in real time, said Ali Javey, an electrical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the inventors.

The sensor could provide an alarm, for instance, that alerts a patient to drink a glass of water or take some medication. Dr. Javey and his colleagues described their system in the journal Nature.

“Lots of studies have shown how and why sweat composition changes, but it was very difficult before to measure this on patients,” he said. “The beauty of this is that it is a comfortable and easy-to-wear system.”

Other researchers have been developing sensors for sweat, but this is the first one that breaks down and analyzes multiple chemicals in sweat at a molecular level and transmits measurements in real time, Dr. Javey added.

He and his colleagues, using flexible plastic substrates, made the prototype from a flexible electronics board and managed to collect information about glucose, lactate, sodium and potassium levels as well as body temperature from test subjects.

The sensor transmits the data to a smartphone in real time. The researchers have filed a patent application for the technology.

“We only looked at four different chemicals, but sweat contains much more useful information that tells about what’s happening to the body,” Dr. Javey said.

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