Researchers have developed a first-of-its-kind soft, flexible microfluidic device that easily adheres to the skin and connects wirelessly with a smartphone to measure the wearer’s sweat to show how his or her body is responding to exercise.
Sweat is a rich, chemical broth containing a number of important chemical compounds with physiological health information, the researchers said.
The low-cost device, which is a little larger than a quarter and nearly the same thickness, connects wirelessly with a smartphone to analyse key biomarkers to help a person to find whether he/she needs to drink more water or energy drink to boost the electrolyte levels, or if something is medically going wrong in his/her body.
“The intimate skin interface created by this wearable, skin-like microfluidic system enables new measurement capabilities not possible with the kinds of absorbent pads and sponges currently used in sweat collection,” said John A. Rogers, Professor at the Northwestern University, US.
For the study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the team tested the device on two groups of cyclists.
The device, which is designed for one-time use for a few hours, was placed directly on the skin of the forearm or back of the athletes.
It showed accurate accounts of the acidity of sweat and concentrations of glucose, chloride and lactate and could even detect the presence of a biomarker for cystic fibrosis.
To get the data, individuals had to use a smartphone to capture the photo of the device. An app then analyses that photo to display the relevant information.
“The sweat analysis platform we developed will allow people to monitor their health on the spot without the need for a blood sampling and with integrated electronics that do not require a battery but still enable wireless connection to a smartphone,” said Yonggang Huang, Professor at the Northwestern University, US.
In the future, it may be more broadly used for disease diagnosis, the researchers added.