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

Burgers are just the beginning: Embracing the future of lab-grown everything

You’ve almost certainly heard of the 'farm to fork' movement, but what about 'lab to table'? Welcome to the fast-evolving world of lab-grown meat. Is this the future of food as we know it?
Computing

Boost your PCs power by learning how to overclock your CPU

Is your PC just chugging along, a little slower than you'd like? Sometimes you just need a little more power under the hood. Before you pick up some new hardware, learn how to overclock your CPU.
Cars

GPS units aren't dead! Our favorite models still do things your phone can't

Love hitting the open road but hate having to rely solely on your phone for getting around? Thankfully, the best in-car GPS systems will allow you to navigate and capitalize on a range of features sans your cellular network. Here are our…
Smart Home

You can now have your Amazon packages delivered in your garage

Amazon is expanding its Amazon Key service with Key for Garage. Eligible Amazon Prime subscribers in 50 U.S. cities will be able to sign up, assuming they have a myQ-enabled smart garage door opener.
Mobile

Charge and sync with the best Lightning cables for your iPhone or iPad

If you’re looking to replace a lightning cable, or in need of something a little longer or tougher, we’ve got you covered. Here are 10 of our favorite cables for the iPhone and other iOS devices.
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.
Emerging Tech

Climeworks wants to clean the atmosphere with a fleet of truck-sized vacuums

Using machines that resemble jet engines, Climeworks wants to fight climate change by extracting CO2 from thin air. The gas can then be sold to carbonated drink and agriculture companies, or sequestered underground.
Emerging Tech

How 3D printing has changed the world of prosthetic limbs forever

When he was 13 years old, Christophe Debard had his leg amputated. Here in 2019, Debard's Print My Leg startup helps others to create 3D-printed prostheses. Welcome to a growing revolution!
Emerging Tech

Geoengineering is risky and unproven, but soon it might be necessary

Geoengineering is a field dedicated to purposely changing the world's climate using technology. Call it 'playing god' if you must; here's why its proponents believe it absolutely must happen.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Earth Day, indoor container farming, robot submarines

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discuss how technology intersects with Earth Day, a new Tim Cook biography, indoor container farming, robot spy submarines, A.I. death metal, and more.
Gaming

Google’s Stadia is the future of gaming, and that’s bad news for our planet

Google’s upcoming Stadia cloud gaming service, and its competitors, are ready to change the way gamers play, but in doing so they may kick off a new wave of data center growth – with unfortunate consequences for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Hawaiian botanists’ drone discovers a plant thought to be lost forever

In what may well be a world first, botanists in Hawaii recently used a drone to find a species of plant that scientists believed was extinct. The plant was located on a sheer cliff face nearly 20 years after its last sighting.
Emerging Tech

Alphabet’s Wing drones now have FAA approval to deliver packages in the U.S.

Alphabet Wing has become the first company to receive Air Carrier Certification from the FAA. This means that it can begin commercial deliveries from local businesses to homes in the U.S.