Sensor Pulls Sweat from Skin to Measure Multiple Biomarkers

Clara Marc
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a new sweat sensor capable of detecting a number of useful chemical biomarkers

Researchers from École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and a Swiss company called Xsensio have presented at last week’s International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) in San Francisco a new sweat sensor capable of detecting a number of useful chemical biomarkers, as well as the sweat’ pH level and temperature of the skin.

The core of the technology relies on a tiny, dual layer capillary action pump that moves microscopic quantities of sweat into the chip and onto its four silicone sensors. Each sensor is only 20 nanometers thick and each is coated with different materials, each reacting with a different biomarker. Different chemicals that detect proteins, electrolytes, metabolytes, and other compounds can be placed onto the sensors, allowing for an extremely modular sensing system.

The sensing chip is less than a centimeter square (5/32 inches sq) and is designed to make direct contact with the skin. The exact way of integrating the chip into a wearable device and how and where to place it on the skin will be left to others that use the new sensor to make actual products.

“Ours is the only device out there that includes such a system on a chip,” in a statement said EPFL’s Adrian Ionescu, a professor who has worked on the new technology. “Even today’s most advanced devices use sensors that are 10,000 times bigger than ours, and need a larger volume of sweat to be able to effectively analyze biomarkers.

Sensor Pulls Sweat from Skin to Measure Multiple Biomarkers