To ensure you’ve always got a good grasp of your health conditions, researchers from Caltech have created a wearable sensor or ‘E-skin’ capable of monitoring your heart rate, body temperature, blood sugar, and metabolic byproducts that are indicators of health.
The E-skin is made from a flexible, soft rubber material embedded with a variety of sensors to monitor vital health information along with recording nerve signals in charge of controlling muscles.
Best of all, the E-skin is powered by nothing more than sweat. This is possible because human sweat contains high levels of a chemical called lactate, a compound generated as a byproduct of normal metabolic processes.
The fuel cells built into the E-skin absorbs the lactate and combines it with oxygen from the atmosphere to generate enough electricity to power the sensors and a bluetooth device similar to the type that connects a phone to a car stereo.
Taking wearable sensors to the next level – the Wei Gao lab at Caltech has developed an e-skin running off of biofuel cells powered by your own sweat. https://t.co/X8ARGMiB5L
— Caltech (@Caltech) April 23, 2020
According to Wei Gao, assistant professor in the Andrew and Peggy Cherng department of Medical Engineering, “One of the major challenges with these kinds of wearable devices is on the power side. Many people are using batteries, but that’s not very sustainable. Some people have tried using solar cells or harvesting the power of human motion, but we wanted to know, ‘Can we get sufficient energy from sweat to power the wearables?’ and the answer is yes.”
The researchers now plan to develop a variety of sensors that can be embedded in the e-skin allowed to be used for numerous purposes.
“In addition to being a wearable biosensor, this can be a human-machine interface. The vital signs and molecular information collected using this platform could be used to design and optimise next-generation prosthetics,” said Gao.
Image: Science Robotics