Sweat analysis is the new killer app. In the last few months, we’ve covered a range of new technologies that use or analyze sweat.  A team at the University of California San Diego has developed a wearable sensor that tracks vitamin C levels in sweat. Researchers at Caltech recently announced an electronic skin patch powered by sweat. A team of National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers fabricated a flexible, highly-responsive pH sweat sensor. These represent just a sample of the variety of the ongoing research with sweat.

Here’s another potentially significant breakthrough in sweat tech. Researchers from the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering developed a two-sided adhesive film that collects, analyzes, and converts biochemical markers from sweat into electrical signals. The engineers set out to find a way to monitor specific health indicators in the form of biomarker molecules in sweat. The team developed the technology in the form of a double-side adhesive film that would stick to the underside of a smartwatch and the wearer’s skin.

The impetus for the engineering project was the recognition that there are already more than 100 million smartwatches in the world. Smartwatches have robust data collection, analysis, and transmission capabilities. Current smartwatches can count steps, measure heart rates, monitor sleep, and blood pressure in a few cases. The goal was to develop technology to enable smartwatches to monitor specific biomarkers such as blood glucose and lactate in human sweat.

The result of the UCLA work is a disposable, two-sided adhesive film that sticks to the bottom of a smartwatch. The skin side of the adhesive collects and analysis the chemicals in sweat. The watch-side of the adhesive converts the data to electrical signals read by an app in the watch. This design requires no external sensors beyond the adhesive.

The UCLA engineers designed a custom smartwatch and an app for proof-of-concept testing levels of glucose, lactate, and choline (an essential growth nutrient). According to the team, the film was effective with both active and sedentary people in a variety of activities and settings. The film also was sufficiently sticky to hold the strapless custom smartphone design on the wearer’s skin for a full day.

The UCLA engineers’ biosensing adhesive film might enable smartphones and other wearable technologies to monitor a wide range of biomarkers.