Skip to main content

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

Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more
This bracelet helps you fall asleep faster and sleep longer
woman-in-bed-wearing-twilight-apollo-on-ankle

This content was produced in partnership with Apollo Neuroscience.
Have you been struggling to get the recommended seven hours of sleep? It's always frustrating when you get in bed at a reasonable time, then toss and turn for a hours before you actually sleep. The quality of that sleep is important too. If you're waking up multiple times during the night, you're likely not getting the quality REM cycle sleep that truly rejuvenates your body. If traditional remedies like herbal teas and noise machines just aren't helping, maybe it's time to try a modern solution. Enter the Apollo wearable.

Now we understand being a little skeptical. How can a bracelet on your wrist or ankle affect your sleep patterns? Certainly the answer to a better night's sleep can't be so simple. We considered these same things when we first heard of it. We'll dive deeper into the science behind the Apollo wearable, but suffice it to say that many people have experienced deeper, uninterrupted sleep while wearing one.
A non-conventional approach to better sleep

Read more
The 11 best Father’s Day deals that you can get for Sunday
Data from a workout showing on the screen of the Apple Watch Series 8.

Father's Day is fast approaching and there's still time to buy your beloved Dad a sweet new device to show him how much you love him. That's why we've rounded up the ten best Father's Day tech deals going on right now. There's something for most budgets here, including if you're able to spend a lot on your loved one. Read on while we take you through the highlights and remember to order fast so you don't miss out on the big day.
Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 -- $200, was $230

While it's the Plus version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 that features in our look at the best tablets, the standard variety is still worth checking out. Saving your Dad the need to dig out their laptop or squint at a small phone screen, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 offers a large 10.5-inch LCD display and all the useful features you would expect. 128GB of storage means plenty of room for all your Dad's favorite apps as well as games too. A long-lasting battery and fast charging save him the need for a power source too often too.

Read more