Various companies have facilitated the performance of athletes like sprinters, cyclists, and tennis players with avant-garde techniques such as sweat replacement drinks and sweat removal clothing. However, they have turned a blind eye to the swimmers.
Scientists now have come up with a revolutionary sweat detecting skin sensor that works underwater. The device sticks to the skin exactly like a pH-strip. Wondering how it works? It accumulates sweat secretions from the wearer’s skin and channels the fluid into a chemical reagent blended with food dye. The patch then changes colour depending on the person’s chloride levels, enabling the wearer to track his sweat. By this process, this small, flexible, and wireless sensor helps the athlete to keep a check on his fluid consumption during a workout or race.
The skin sensor is also enabled to keep the water out while capturing the sweat in the inside. This is way more advanced than its contemporaries in terms of keeping the water and sweat apart. The other sensors were not able to separate the sweat and pool water during experiments.
To accentuate the performance of the sensor, the researchers used multiple layers of a flexible soft polymer on top of tiny microchannels that gather sweat from the surface of the wearer’s skin. Instead of using the cliched silicone-based polymer, they opted for more damp-proof material made of styrene-isoprene-styrene, or SIS. This is a small valve system located in the sweat collection channels which pumps meagre amounts of air inside the channel to keep the pool water from entering. John Rogers, one of the authors of the paper and a Material Scientist at Northwestern University, thinks that this combination of new material and a novel design is exceptionally great.
This device can also be ingrained with electronics to measure sweat or body temperature precisely and transmit the data to a nearby coach through a wireless chip. A tiny LED light, if outfitted with the device, can alert the athlete that his body needs water or fluid.
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Previously, John Rogers has built other devices to measure biological fluids. One of his designs was announced in the recent Consumer Electronics Show with the skincare behemoth L’Oreal. The said device allowed users to determine the best type of make-up or sunscreen to apply by measuring skin pH levels.
Rogers came up with this ground-breaking idea after having a conversation with the coach of men’s swim team in the Northwestern University. According to the coach, an athlete’s performance is adversely affected by dehydration and it is important to understand the sweat loss and electrolyte loss. Worse, it can lead the person to cramp inside the pool. He, thus, thinks that this sweat sensor will be extremely helpful for the swimmers because they will have an idea of how much water they need.
The device that is slightly larger than a quarter in shape is a miracle in itself! Rogers claimed that this device can test the hydration levels of newborns or elderly patients without asking them to get on a treadmill. They have tested the device on athletes riding an exercise bike, on swimmers training in the pool in field trials, and in open water with triathletes training for the Ironman Race in Kona, Hawaii.
The triathletes who exercise for hours during the course of a single event can reap optimum benefit from this device, experts think. They will be able to carefully monitor their body over time and keep dehydration at bay. However, being able to collect sweat during training can somewhat predict what will happen in a race. Now that the skin sensor is set to make its debut, training will be more fun and methodical for the triathletes.
Quite a device, isn’t it?