While wearable sensors today are ubiquitous, say the researchers, for scenarios such as measuring the onset of frailty in older adults, promptly diagnosing deadly diseases, testing the efficacy of new drugs, or tracking the performance of professional athletes, medical-grade devices are needed. As a result, the researchers have developed a type of wearable they call a "biosymbiotic device," which is custom 3D-printed and based on body scans of wearers.
In addition, say the researchers, the device can operate continuously using a combination of wireless power transfer and compact energy storage.
"There's nothing like this out there," says Philipp Gutruf, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and Craig M. Berge Faculty Fellow in the College of 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."
Current wearable sensors face various limitations, including the need to be charged, and often they can only gather limited amounts of data due to their placement, such as on the wrist. By using 3D scans of a wearer's body, which can be gathered via methods including MRIs, CT scans, and even carefully combined smartphone images, the researchers say they can 3D-print custom-fitted devices that wrap around various body parts.
For example, say the reaearchers, think a virtually unnoticeable, lightweight, breathable, mesh cuff designed specifically for a user's bicep, calf, or torso. The ability to specialize sensor placement allows the measurememt of physiological parameters that otherwise might not be possible.
"If you want something close to core body temperature continuously, for example," says Tucker Stuart, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering and first author of a paper on the research, "you'd want to place the sensor in the armpit. Or, if you want to measure the way your bicep deforms during exercise, we can place a sensor in the devices that can accomplish that. Because