Northwestern University’s research team has developed a first-of-its-kind soft, flexible microfluidic device that easily adheres to the skin and measures the wearer’s sweat to show how his or her body is responding to exercise.
A little larger than a quarter and about the same thickness, the simple, low-cost device analyzes key biomarkers to help a person decide quickly if any adjustments, such as drinking more water or replenishing electrolytes, need to be made or if something is medically awry.
Designed for one-time use of a few hours, the device, placed directly on the skin of the forearm or back, even detects the presence of a biomarker for cystic fibrosis.
“The intimate skin interface created by this wearable, skin-like microfluidic system enables new measurement capabilities not possible with the kinds of absorbent pads and sponges currently used in sweat collection,” said John A. Rogers, who led the multi-institution research team that created the ‘lab on the skin.’
“Sweat is a rich, chemical broth containing a number of important chemical compounds with physiological health information. By expanding our previously developed ‘epidermal’ electronics platform to include a complex network of microfluidic channels and storage reservoirs, we now can perform biochemical analysis of this important biofluid,” he said.
“The sweat analysis platform we developed will allow people to monitor their health on the spot without the need for a blood sampling and with integrated electronics that do not require a battery but still enable wireless connection to a smartphone,” he adds.
When a smartphone is brought into proximity with the device, the wireless electronics trigger an app that captures a photo of the device and analyzes the image to yield data on the biomarker concentrations.
“We chose these four biomarkers because they provide a characteristic profile that’s relevant for health status determination,” said Rogers, director of Northwestern’s Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics. “The device also can determine sweat rate and loss, and it can store samples for subsequent laboratory analysis, if necessary.”
I/F: Northwestern University