Since 2014, we have written about biometric sensors of all shapes, sizes, materials, and technologies. On August 29, 2014, Alfred Poor wrote about FDA approval for Vital Connect’s HealthPatch, a medical device that combined a disposable patch and a reusable sensor module. The FDA approved the HealthPatch for use monitoring patients with chronic conditions in clinical settings and for short-term monitoring following hospital discharge. We’ve covered a wide range of sensor technologies since then, most recently with a focus on sensors used for remote patient monitoring (RPM) during the Covid-19 pandemic. Note the continuing theme from 2014 till today: biosensor applications for both clinical and home use. The technologies advance, but the needs remain the same.

University of Missouri engineer Zheng Yan focuses on wearable patch sensors. Last year Yan developed wearable air conditioning patches that can prevent heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Yan now aims to develop large-scale manufacturing of low-cost, disposable biosensor stickers that can detect COVID-19 and other diseases.

The National Science Foundation recently gave Yan a grant to support his research. Yan’s goal is to develop technology for Inkjet printing multimodal bioelectronics directly on flexible, solid substrate materials such as plastic or silicone. In order to function as wearable on-skin patch sensors, the devices must be soft, breathable, comfortable, lightweight, and waterproof. And cheap.

According to Yan, successful development will advance a commercial market for scalable manufacturing runs of low-cost biometric devices. The disposable stickers will be capable of tracking multiple vital signs such as blood pressure, heart activity, and skin hydration simultaneously. With this enabling technology, once researchers develop algorithms that accurately detect specific diseases such as COVID-19 or chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or COPD, manufacturers will be able to mass produce biosensor patches that do the job.