Scientists at the University of Tokyo have developed a new wearable electronic sensor that, they claim, can be worn for a week or more without causing discomfort.
The researchers say that the hypoallergenic electronic sensor is made up of an elastic electrode and breathable nanoscale meshes. They suggest that it could lead to "the development of non-invasive e-skin devices that can monitor a person's health continuously over a long period".
In recent years, a range of technology manufacturers and health organisations have launched wearable devices that can monitor heart rate and other basic metrics.
But many of these devices have relied on rubber materials that are not suitable for long-term use. The researchers claim that they prevent sweating and block airflow, which can cause harmful health effects
"We learned that devices that can be worn for a week or longer for continuous monitoring were needed for practical use in medical and sports applications," said Professor Takao Someya at the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Engineering.
In their research, the scientists were able to create an electrode by combining nanoscale meshes containing a water-soluble polymer, polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and a gold. They said the materials are "considered safe and biologically compatible with the body".
To attach the device onto your skin, you only need to add a small amount of water. The researchers said it "dissolves the PVA nanofibers and allows it to stick easily to the skin".
Next, the researchers conducted a skin patch test to rule out any irritations and skin allergies. Twenty people took part, and the researchers did not detect inflammation.
After this test, the scientists said they "proved the device's mechanical durability through repeated bending and stretching, exceeding 10,000 times, of a conductor attached on the forefinger".
They also showed that the wearable can function reliably as an electrode for electromyogram recordings "when its readings of the electrical activity of muscles were comparable to those obtained through conventional gel electrodes".
Someya concluded: "It will become possible to monitor patients' vital signs without causing any stress or discomfort."
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