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Wearable health device gathers information through sweat
25
Jul '16
Three researchers are partnering to develop a new kind of wearable health tracking device that gathers information from its wearer through his or her sweat.

For this initiative, Shu Yang of Penn Engineering and Randall Kamien of the School of Arts & Sciences are partnering with Genevieve Dion at Drexel University.

The goal of these researchers is to make a new kind of wearable health tracking device, where the 'smarts' are embedded in the fabric itself.

The plan to develop a garment that gathers health information from its wearer through his or her sweat will be achieved by spinning nanotechnology-inspired yarn that can be knitted like its conventional counterpart.

“Instead of just wicking sweat away, the team's yarn will be able to chemically analyse its contents and change colour accordingly,” Penn Engineering said.

According to the college, wearable technology requires materials that are both flexible and functional, so developers often look to polymers or to make harder materials as thin as possible.

The challenge for these researchers will be to make a yarn that works like spiracles, the tiny holes in insects' abdomens through which they breathe, or xylem, the tissue in trees that transports water from the roots to the leaves.

“Both systems must deal with an unpredictable mix of air and water without clogging,” Penn Engineering observed.

“Those materials aren't a good fit for something that goes directly on your skin because they don't breathe, so we're taking inspiration from clothing, and making new materials that can be knitted together,” Yang said.

“We'd then coat the insides of this yarn with chemistry that's specific to different ions found in sweat. The concentrations of those ions could then be read out from colour changes in the yarn itself,” Kamien stated.

The team plans to use dyes that fluoresce different colours under black light, but a system that uses colour-changing liquid crystals, like the ones found in adhesive thermometers, might also be possible.

The team recently received a $100,000 grant from the Keck Futures Initiative—a project of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (AR)

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

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