Researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering have developed an innovative 3D-printed wearable sweat sensor. Dubbed the Sweatainer, the sensor is similar in size to a child’s sticker.
‘3D-printing enables an entirely new design mode for wearable sweat sensors by allowing us to create fluidic networks and features with unprecedented complexity,’ said Department of Mechanical Engineering assistant professor Tyler Ray. ‘With the Sweatainer, we are utilising 3D-printing to showcase the vast opportunities this approach enables for accessible, innovative and cost-effective prototyping of advanced wearable sweat devices.’
Sweat holds vital information about our health, providing clues to levels of dehydration, fatigue and blood sugar, as well as serious conditions such as cystic fibrosis, diabetes and heart failure. Traditional approaches for sweat collection use absorbent pads or microbore (very narrow) tubes pressed against the epidermis (surface layer of the skin) using bands or straps to capture sweat as it emerges. These techniques require trained personnel, special handling and costly laboratory equipment. The recent emergence of wearable sweat sensors has addressed some of these challenges, but these devices remain single-use. When the device is full, it must be removed and the sweat collection stopped.
One unique feature of the Sweatainer is its ‘multi-draw’ sweat-collection method, which allows for the collection of multiple, separate sweat samples for analysis either directly on the device or sent to a lab. Inspired by the vacutainer used in clinical blood sampling, this advancement not only makes sweat collection more efficient but also opens up new possibilities for at-home testing, storing samples for future research and integrating with existing health-monitoring methods.
Field studies of the Sweatainer system highlight the real-world potential of this groundbreaking technology. Through the blueprint established in the Sweatainer, the researchers hope that this will continue to drive innovation to create a future where personal health monitoring is more accessible, convenient and insightful.
The research has been published in Sciences Advances.