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Low-Cost Sensors Measure Skin Hydration

Max Pixel
Max Pixel

Researchers at North Carolina University have engineered a new type of sensor. This wearable, wireless sensor has the ability to monitor a person’s skin hydration. Scientists believe that this device has multiple applications, especially those pertaining to health.

The device is made up of two electrodes containing conductive silver nanowires. The electrodes are made from an elastic polymer composite. The electrodes are used to monitor the electrical properties of the sin, which will alter and change according to the hydration level of a person’s skin. The device is not impacted by ambient humidity, meaning it can be worn in all sorts of different environments.

Engineers have made the device flexible and lightweight, so it is easily worn in daily life. The prototype devices currently have it as worn on either the wrist (similarly to a FitBit) or as a chest patch. Despite their small size they are highly accurate and capable of detecting subtle changes in skin hydration. Perhaps most remarkably, the sensors come out to costing about $1 each. The overall cost comes out to roughly that of a FitBit, making the sensors ideal for mass production and commercialization.

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“We have developed technology that allows us to track an individual’s skin hydration in real time. Our sensor could be used to protect the health of people working in hot conditions, improve athletic performance and safety, and to track hydration in older adults or in medical patients suffering from various conditions. It can even be used to tell how effective skin moisturizers are for cosmetics.”

Yong Zhu, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State and co-corresponding author of the paper.

The device’s countless applications and low production cost have engineers hoping that they’ll soon be able to mass produce this new invention. From fitness buffs tracking their hydration levels to soldiers worried about their vitals in inhospitable climates, this device can help them all. The technology incorporates the analytics people need with the flexible and lightweight style that makes it perfect for use in daily life. Further research is pending, but it looks like low-cost, highly efficient hydration trackers are on their way to the public soon.

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