Purdue University Researchers Develop Cheap, Biocompatible and Breathable Smart Stickers

Wearable smart stickers that monitor the wearer’s health without a doctor

As wearable technology is becoming more and more advanced, researchers are finding ways to create cheap and easy-to-use wearable devices that can perform effectively.

A team of researchers at Purdue university have created a simpler version of wearable devices that can be used for health monitoring and alert a user of any health risks in real time. The “smart stickers,” as the researchers call them, can continuously monitor the wearer’s health without a doctor, especially when the patient is back at home.

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“For the first time, we have created wearable electronic devices that someone can easily attach to their skin and are made out of paper to lower the cost of personalized medicine,” said lead researcher Ramses Martinez, a Purdue assistant professor of industrial engineering and biomedical engineering.

According to their study, traditional fabricated epidermal electronics for physiological monitoring and therapy are typically complex and expensive. To solve this issue, the research team developed a fabrication of an epidermal, paper-based electronic device (EPED), which is inexpensive, stretchable and easy to apply.

“The omniphobic character and fibrous structure of EPEDs make them breathable, mechanically stable upon stretching, and facilitate their use as electrophysiological sensors to record electrocardiograms, electromyograms, and electrooculograms, even under water,” the study said. “EPEDs can also be used to provide thermotherapeutic treatments to joints, map temperature spatially, and as wirelessly powered implantable devices for stimulation and therapeutics.”

Their technology aligns with Purdue's Giant Leaps celebration, acknowledging the university’s global advancements made in health as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. This is one of the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.

The stickers are made of cellulose and covered in molecules that repel oil, dust, water and bacteria to prevent the paper from falling off the skin due to water or sweat exposure.

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The smart stickers can help athletes to monitor their health while exercising, or healthcare providers to monitor a patient's sleep. They are unobtrusive to the wearer due to their serpentine-shaped material, allowing them to easily move with human skin.

“The low cost of these wearable devices and their compatibility with large-scale manufacturing techniques will enable the quick adoption of these new fully disposable, wearable sensors in a variety of healthcare applications requiring single-use diagnostic systems,” Martinez said.

The study was published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

Sam Draper
November 6, 2018

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