Japanese Researchers Develop Wearable Chemical Sensor for Early Detection of Heat Stroke and Dehydration

In a breakthrough study conducted by researchers at the Tokyo University of Science, a cutting-edge wearable chemical sensor has been developed using heat-transfer printing. This innovative sensor is capable of measuring the concentration of chloride ions in sweat, presenting a new opportunity for early detection of heat stroke and dehydration. The findings open up possibilities for personalized healthcare and athlete training management, and have been published in the esteemed journal ACS Sensors.

With the advent of miniaturized electronics, healthcare devices that were once the stuff of science fiction are now becoming a reality. Among these groundbreaking advancements, wearable sensors have taken center stage. Designed to be worn directly on the body, these sensors monitor crucial physiological parameters such as heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle activity.

While some wearable sensors can already detect chemicals in bodily fluids, the development of chemical sensors poses unique challenges. Direct contact between the sensor and the skin can lead to irritation and allergies, while applying the sensor to wearable textiles compromises accuracy due to surface irregularities.

Addressing these concerns, Associate Professor Isao Shitanda and his team at the Tokyo University of Science have devised a remarkable solution. They have successfully utilized a technique called “heat-transfer printing” to affix a thin, flexible chloride ion sensor onto a textile substrate. This breakthrough allows the sensor to be seamlessly integrated into everyday textiles like t-shirts, wristbands, and insoles.

The advantages of the heat-transfer printing approach are manifold. By positioning the sensor outside the clothing, skin irritation is prevented. Furthermore, the textile’s wicking effect ensures uniform distribution of sweat between the sensor’s electrodes, establishing a stable electrical contact. The printing process on a flat surface prior to transfer eliminates the formation of blurred edges, which can occur when directly printing onto textiles.

To ensure wearer safety, the researchers meticulously selected materials and electrochemical mechanisms that minimize the risk of allergic reactions. They conducted extensive experiments using artificial sweat to validate the sensor’s accuracy in measuring chloride ion concentration. Remarkably, the sensor demonstrated a change in electromotive force of −59.5 mTV/log CCl−, exhibited a Nernst response, and maintained a linear relationship within the concentration range of chloride ions found in human sweat. Importantly, the sensor was found to be unaffected by other ions or substances typically present in sweat.

To test the real-time capabilities of the sensor, a volunteer underwent a 30-minute exercise session on a stationary bicycle. Measurements of the perspiration rate, chloride ion levels in blood, and saliva osmolality were recorded every five minutes and compared to the data obtained by the wearable sensor. The results demonstrated the sensor’s reliability in accurately measuring the concentration of chloride ions in sweat.

The wearable sensor is not only highly functional but also offers wireless data transmission, enabling real-time health monitoring. As chloride represents the most abundant electrolyte in human sweat, its concentration serves as an excellent indicator of the body’s electrolyte balance and a valuable tool in diagnosing and preventing heat stroke.

The Tokyo University of Science’s research signifies a significant step forward in the field of wearable ion sensors. With the ability to monitor sweat biomarkers in real time, personalized healthcare and athlete training management can be revolutionized. As these sensors continue to advance, they hold the promise of improving overall well-being and ensuring the safety and performance of individuals in diverse settings.



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