Sweating it out through exercise is good for the health as everyone knows. Well, a sensing technology shows that sweat could also help to provide new insights into the state of one’s health.
The Simon Fraser University is developing a low-cost, 3D-printed wearable sweat sensor that could go deep into one’s state of health. The research is being carried out in SFU’s Additive Manufacturing Lab in collaboration with researchers from Zhejiang University. The team recently published a review of sweat sensor advances in the journal Bio-Design and Manufacturing
SFU researcher Woo Soo Kim noted that innovation in technology design over the past decade has seen the rapid development of wearable sensors—including sweat sensors. “These wearable sensors can assess an individual’s health by analyzing the chemicals and other health information contained in sweat,” the researcher said.
Unlike collecting and testing other biofluids such as saliva or blood, the method is non-invasive and does not require assistance. These sweat sensors can monitor human biochemical information during exercise, including ions or lactate levels, which can serve as indicators of hydration and overall physiological and psychological wellness. The data collected can also play a role in assessing various health factors, including stress and nutrition.
Noting that chemical composition and physical information from sweat was of great value in terms of how it reflects human health status, Kim said “direct sweat collection from the skin surface is an easy-to-perform, straightforward method that avoids privacy concerns in physical implementation. These features mean that sweat has the potential to become a widely accessible sample type that can be monitored in a non-invasive manner.”
While there is a growing range of low-cost wearable sensors that can collect and analyze sweat to assess a person’s health, Kim’s 3D printable model integrates mechanically flexible electro-chemical sensors and wireless communication functions.
Typically, sensors can be attached to the skin using a flexible material such as foam, fabric, flexible plastics or rubber and ideally, be powered by wireless chargers.
Sweat metabolites can provide important information that can effectively be used to evaluate the wearer’s overall health condition, notes Kim. However, he cautions that further research is needed to verify the correlation between information from sweat and blood, using in-vivo validation tests to advance meaningful bio-medical applications.