A new device for health monitoring is as flexible as the skin on which it is placed. (Credit: John A. Rogers)
A new wearable medical device can quickly alert a person if they are having cardiovascular trouble or if it’s simply time to put on some skin moisturizer, reports a study from Northwestern and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The small device, approximately five centimeters square, can be placed directly on the skin and worn 24/7 for around-the-clock health monitoring. The wireless technology uses thousands of tiny liquid crystals on a flexible substrate to sense heat. When the device turns color, the wearer knows something is awry.
“Our device is mechanically invisible — it is ultrathin and comfortable — much like skin itself,” said Northwestern’s Yonggang Huang, one of the senior researchers. The research team tested the device on people’s wrists.
“One can imagine cosmetics companies being interested in the ability to measure skin’s dryness in a portable and non-intrusive way,” Huang said. “This is the first device of its kind.”
Huang led the portion of the research focused on theory, design and modeling. He is the Joseph Cummings Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.
The technology and its relevance to basic medicine have been demonstrated in this study, although additional testing is needed before the device can be put to use. Details are reported online in the journal Nature Communications.
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