Wearable health sensor charges without wires or batteries

Friday, 10 May, 2024

Wearable health sensor charges without wires or batteries

A team of researchers from the University of Missouri have made a breakthrough in their ongoing development of an on-skin wearable bioelectronic device. Associate Professor Zheng Yan’s lab, which specialises in soft bioelectronics, recently added a novel component to the team’s ultra-soft, breathable and stretchable material — wireless charging, without batteries, through a magnetic connection.

The innovation, detailed in Nature Nanotechnology, could help gather precise vital sign measurements like blood pressure, electrical heart activity and skin hydration. The discovery could also lead to early detection and timely interventions for chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

“A watch is a hard surface, so it’s not as effective as our material in providing accurate vital sign tracking. Our porous, soft material acts as an electrical conductor, so it can maintain a stable electrical current during movement. This is a significant step forward toward our overall goal to help improve the long-term biocompatibility and the long-lasting accuracy of wearable bioelectronics,” Yan said.

The researchers’ end goal is to provide people with a convenient, comprehensive health picture through long-term self-health monitoring, and the capability to share that information wirelessly with a person’s healthcare provider. Now, the researchers have overcome a significant challenge and created an accurate, wireless connection.

“If we can make affordable, customised electronics and equip our bodies with these devices, we can take proactive actions at the early stages of some diseased conditions and dramatically change and reshape our future,” Yan said.

Ganggang Zhao, left, demonstrates the device’s wireless charging capability as Zheng Yan observes the test. Image credit: Ben Stewart/University of Missouri.

While Yan’s material has significant on-skin capabilities, his team is also exploring the possibilities of integrating it with implanted devices like pacemakers. Because the implanted material does not require Bluetooth technology and is battery free, it has advantages over existing technology, making it suitable for safe and effective use in medical applications. “If a device made from our soft material can be put directly on the surface of the heart, we can get a more reliable and timelier signal, leading to early detection of this health issue,” Yan said.

The research builds on the team’s existing proof of concept, as demonstrated by their previous work, including a heart monitor currently under development.

Top image caption: Ganggang Zhao, right, demonstrates the team’s on-skin wearable bioelectronic device. Image credit: Ben Stewart/University of Missouri.

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