These "Super Permeable" Wearables Promise Comfort in Even the Sweatiest of Scenarios

Wicking sweat away faster than the body can produce it, these wearable sensors aim to deliver better long-term monitoring and comfort.

Researchers from the City University of Hong Kong, the Southwest Jiaotong Univeristy, and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University have come up with a "super permeable" form of soft electronics ,which, they say, could lead to longer-lasting and more comfortable wearables for health monitor and more.

"Incorporating a 3D spatial liquid manipulation technique, we have achieved fully integrated permeable electronics that match the circuitry and functionality to state-of-the-art wearable devices, enabling superb breathability," claims Yu Xinge, professor at City UHK's department of biomedical engineering and lead on the project, of the team's work. "The 3D LD [Liquid Diode] does not rely on unique materials but adopts an in-plane liquid transport layer called the horizontal liquid diode."

A "super permeable" approach to soft electronics could mean better and more comfortable wearable sensors. (๐Ÿ“น: Zhang et al)

"Our findings provide fluid manipulation and system integration strategies for the soft, permeable wearables," Yu continues. "We have successfully applied this technology to both advanced skin-integrated electronics and textile-integrated electronics, achieving reliable health monitoring over a weeklong duration."

The team's creation offers a claimed 400-fold boost to sweat permeability, allowing the device to wick sweat away from the skin far more efficiently than previously possible. The result: electronic patches for health and fitness monitoring that last longer, provide high-quality signals even during exercise, and which offer higher comfort levels. The permeability is so high that the team claims it can wick sweat away from the skin thousands of times more efficiently than the skin can produce it.

As well as wicking sweat away as quickly as the body can produce it, the team's devices are soft and stretchable. (๐Ÿ“น: Zhang et al)

At the same time, the team's creation is lightweight, soft, and both flexible and stretchable โ€” all key features for long-term comfort in skin-worn wearables. To prove its capabilities, the researchers built a prototypes designed both for wearing on the skin and integration into fabrics which provide continuous heart-rate monitoring. The next step: clinical trials, to confirm the technology's efficacy in real-world scenarios.

The team's work has been published in the journal Nature under closed-access terms.

Main article image courtesy of the City University of Hong Kong.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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