Battery-free biosensor patch measures your health by drinking your sweat

northwestern university skin patch sweat sensor

At present, the majority of wearable biomarker sensors require onboard batteries to power them. While that’s perfectly acceptable for some use cases, it’s not as well-suited for tasks such as continuous tracking for medical purposes. To solve this problem, researchers from Northwestern University have developed a battery-free soft skin patch that’s able to gather data about the body wirelessly by testing sweat components. In time, the team hopes that this technology will be useful for clinical applications such as cystic fibrosis diagnosis and rehabilitation tracking among stroke survivors.

“We’ve developed a thin, soft microfluidic analysis lab that can laminate to the surface of the skin, where it captures minute quantities of sweat and analyzes key biomarkers related to physiological health, electrolyte balance, and hydration state,” Professor John Rogers, a physical chemist and materials scientist at Northwestern, told Digital Trends. “It brings fluids and chemical analysis into the realm of a skin-interfaced wearable that can operate in real-time in the field. Specifically, it provides the reader with visual information on sweat loss and sweat rate, along with the pH and electrolyte levels, and wireless digital data on glucose and lactate levels — all based on sweat.”

The patch gathers sweat through small pore-like holes, which channel it into tiny collection chambers. Each chamber measures something different. Power is provided via radio waves emitted from connected devices, such as smartphones. This communication also allows the patch to feed back data, which is then read using near-field communication technology.

Unlike many of the projects we cover under the heading of “Emerging Technology,” Northwestern’s research has already led to one product. Having formed a startup called Epicore to commercialize the tech, Northwestern has licensed it to L’Oreal for a skin pH tracker shown off at the recent CES 2019 event. Rogers says that another sport-oriented application will be announced in the coming weeks. This could relate to allowing athletes to see how their bodies are holding up over the course of a competition.

Long-term, however, he believes it will have profound medical applications. “On a slightly longer timescale, we’re developing these platforms as diagnostics for cystic fibrosis and for kidney disease,” he noted.

A paper describing the research was recently published in the journal Science Advances.

Emerging Tech

How can digital art created on obsolete platforms be preserved?

As the lines between art and technology continue to blur, digital art experiences become more commonplace. But these developments are raising an important question for art conservationists: How should digital artworks be preserved?
Outdoors

High-tech but low-key, these are the amazing materials inside your outdoor gear

We take a look at some of the materials that are used in the creation of our favorite outdoor gear, making our jackets, sleeping bags, tents, and other items warmer, drier, and more comfortable even in harsh weather conditions.
Gaming

How to keep a PS4 in your pocket with the PlayStation Mobile app

Sony built the PlayStation 4 with smartphone and mobile integration in mind. Take a look at our guide for connecting your smartphone or tablet to a PS4, so you can get the most out of the system while on the go.
Gaming

Here's how you can play your favorite PC games with a Nintendo Switch controller

Nintendo's Switch controllers, including the Joy-Cons and the aptly titled Pro Controller, use Bluetooth, which makes them compatible with your PC. Here's how to start using them for PC gaming.
Computing

Converting files from MKV to MP4 is quick and easy. Just follow these steps

MKV files have their place, but if you would rather convert your videos from MKV to MP4, there are two methods we consider the best and most efficient for getting it done. In this guide, we'll walk you through them step by step.
Emerging Tech

Statistician raises red flag about reliability of machine learning techniques

Machine learning is everywhere in science and technology. But how reliable are these techniques really? A statistician argues that questions of accuracy and reproducibility of machine learning have not been fully addressed.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how Facebook taught its Portal A.I. to think like a Hollywood filmmaker

When Facebook introduced its Portal screen-enhanced smart speakers, it wanted to find a way to make video chat as intimate as sitting down for a conversation with a friend. Here's how it did it.
Emerging Tech

Chandra X-ray telescope uncovers evidence of the universe’s missing matter

Where is all of the matter in the universe? NASA's Chandra telescope has uncovered evidence of hot gas strands in the vicinity of a quasar which could explain the missing third of matter which has puzzled astronomers for years.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s space observatory will map the sky with unprecedented detail

NASA is preparing to launch a cutting-edge space observatory to create the most detailed map ever produced of the sky. Doing so will involve surveying hundreds of millions of galaxies. Here's how it plans to do it.
Smart Home

No strings attached: This levitating lamp uses science to defy gravity

Now on Kickstarter, the Levia lamp is a cool industrial-looking lamp which boasts a levitating bulb. Looking for a table light that will dazzle visitors? You've come to the right place.
Emerging Tech

The Great White Shark’s genome has been decoded, and it could help us end cancer

In a significant step for marine and genetic science, researchers have decoded the genome of the great white shark. The genetic code revealed a wealth of insight into what makes these creatures so successful from an evolutionary standpoint.
Emerging Tech

‘Guerrilla rainstorm’ warning system aims to prevent soakings, or worse

Japanese researchers have created a "guerrilla rainstorm" early-warning system aimed at preventing severe soakings, or worse. The team hopes to launch the system before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Mobile

Barbie’s Corvette ain’t got nothing on Sphero’s fully programmable robot car

Sphero is known for devices like the Sphero Bolt and BB-8 Star Wars toy, but now the company is back with another addition to its lineup -- the Sphero RVR. The RVR is a fully programmable robot car that can be expanding with different…