The concept of stretchable biometric sensors presents a wide range of exciting “What if we could measure….?” possibilities. We’ve written previously about the noninvasive, durable, potentially low-cost aspects of stretchable sensors for various applications. Researchers at the University of Minnesota work on 3D printed tactile sensors. New Zealand-based StretchSense builds flexible capacitors that measure electrical capacitance as they are deformed geometrically by movement.
University of Glasgow School of Engineering scientists designed a stretchable, wearable sensor to measure sweat. The Glasgow team published a report in Biosensors and Bioelectronics that explains their developments. Made from a graphite-polyurethane composite, the sweat-sensing material reports pH levels from 5 to 9 within eight seconds. A stretchable RFID antenna in the same material enables continuous wireless pH data transmission. According to the Glasgow team, their technology could be used by clinicians to diagnose and monitor various conditions including diabetes, kidney disease, and certain types of cancer, without depending on the more invasive blood tests.
Measuring pH levels in sweat is a first step for the Glasgow engineers. The group’s next steps will explore building out sensor capabilities to measure glucose, ammonia, and urea. The team’s overall goal is to market a complete diagnostic system based on its stretchable sensor technology. Going for a physical? Rather than drawing blood, in some near future, a medical tech may say, “Just slip on these gloves and read a magazine” (if magazines still exist). After a few minutes, the doctor will discuss your results with you.