A Northwestern University team has developed a flexible microfluidic device that easily sticks to the skin and collects and analyzes key biomarkers (pH and concentrations of glucose, chloride) in the wearer’s sweat to determine how the person’s body is responding to exercise, Joinfo.com reports with reference to the press release.
The results help the person to make quick adjustments, such as changing activity or drinking more water.
The device is less than an inch in diameter, slim, flexible patch placed directly on the skin of the forearm or back. It is designed for one-time use of a few hours for now.
The researchers also said that in the future, the device may be more broadly used for disease diagnosis.
“Sweat is a rich, chemical broth containing a number of important chemical compounds with physiological health information. By expanding our previously developed ‘epidermal’ electronics platform to include a complex network of microfluidic channels and storage reservoirs, we now can perform biochemical analysis of this important biofluid,” said John Rogers, director of Northwestern’s Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics, who lead the research.
During exercise, sweat winds through the tiny microscopic channels of the device and into four different small, circular compartments. In the compartments, reactions with chemical reagents result in visible color changes in ways that quantitatively relate to pH and concentrations of glucose, chloride and lactate.
When a smartphone is brought into proximity with the device, the wireless electronics trigger an app that captures a photo of the device and analyzes the image to yield data on the biomarker concentrations.
The sweat analysis device features a number of innovations, such as biochemical analysis in real time, determination of biomarker levels using colorimetric analysis. And it needs only a smartphone camera and app to read the biomarker change.
As we reported earlier, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found a new way to create simple and cheap artificial muscles.