Researchers at Pennsylvania State University and Northeastern University announced that they have developed a highly sensitive, wearable gas sensor for environmental and human health monitoring. The researchers believe the wearable sensor could soon be on the market. This new sensor improves the existing wearable sensor and enhances sensitivity due to its self-heating mechanism.
Self-heating mechanisms allow for rapid recovery and reuse of wearable sensors. The researchers point out that this type of other equipment requires an external heater and requires expensive and time-consuming lithography processes in cleanroom conditions, and that scientists from the project used lasers to lithograph a porous, one-line nanomaterial that is said to be similar to graphene, significantly reducing costs.
The material is used to make sensors that can detect gases, biomolecules, and in the future will be able to detect chemicals. The non-sensing part of the device uses a series of silver-coated serpentine lines. Applying an electric current on the silver locally heats the gas-sensing area of the sensor, eliminating the need for a separate heater. The meandering lines allow the wearable sensor to stretch like a spring to fit the curve.
Scientists say the U.S. Defense Threat Production Agency is interested in wearable sensors that can detect chemical and biological agents that could damage nerves or lungs. A medical device company is also working with the team to scale up production to conduct patient health monitoring, including detection of gaseous biomarkers in the body, as well as environmental testing of contaminants that can affect the lungs. The team is currently working to create high-density arrays and improve signals to make sensors more selective.