New sensor is sewn into clothing and monitors health through sweat

Scientists have presented a new sensor that can be sewn into clothes – the device monitors all indicators of the body through sweat. The data is updated every 5-30 seconds.

Tufts University engineers have unveiled the first flexible sensor device that can be sewn into clothing to analyze sweat and track a user’s health. It can be used to diagnose and monitor acute and chronic illnesses or monitor health conditions during sports. The device, described in NPJ Flexible Electronics, consists of special sensitive filaments and electronic components. It is able to transfer data, as well as collect, store, and process them in real-time.

Standard health monitors can track heart rate, temperature, glucose levels, walking distance, and more. But a more detailed fixation of a person’s health, stress level and performance will help to monitor the body more closely. In particular, metabolic markers such as electrolytes and other biological molecules provide more detailed information about a person’s health.

The new device monitors the biomarkers in sweat in real-time: sodium and ammonium ions, lactate, and acidity. The device platform is versatile and can include multiple sensors that track virtually every marker in perspiration.

The researchers explained that sodium may indicate an electrolyte imbalance in the body; lactate concentration can be an indicator of muscle fatigue; the level of chloride ions can be used to diagnose and control cystic fibrosis. In this case, cortisol, a stress hormone, can be used to assess emotional stress as well as metabolic and immune functions.

It is possible to integrate sensors into clothing thanks to flexible threads covered with conductive paints. Researchers tested the device on humans, monitoring their electrolyte and metabolic response at maximum exercise on stationary bicycles. The sensors detected a change in the level of analytes with an interval of 5 to 30 seconds.