Wearable sensors that can monitor everything from heart rates to how much sweat the body produces have existed for years, but powering those devices usually requires onboard batteries. Depending on how much power is required, they may need to be recharged several times a day. That said, engineers from the University of Arizona have developed a 3D-printed wearable that can operate continuously using wireless energy transfers and compact energy storage.
"There's nothing like this out there," states Philipp Gutruf, assistant professor of biomedical engineering. "We introduce a completely new concept of tailoring a device directly to a person and using wireless power casting to allow the device to operate 24/7 without ever needing to recharge."
The "biosymbiotic device" is custom made to the individual, which is created using 3D scans of the wearer's body along with data taken from MRIs, CT scans and even smartphone images. They then can 3D print a flexible mesh that can wrap around a person's forearm, bicep, calf or torso. The mesh features embedded sensors that are highly sensitive and can measure everything from temperature to muscle strain. What's more, the 3D-printed mesh is robust enough to use for more extended periods before they begin to degrade.
As mentioned earlier, the biosymbiotic device does not require battery power but relies on wireless power transfer with a range of several meters, making it ideal for indoor use. When the device travels outside that area, it switches to a small energy storage unit until it reenters the wireless energy area. The engineers are currently working on launching a startup to bring the new technology to market.