- The mobile health industry has made some significant gains in the last several years, as it has moved past smartphones, mHealth apps, and tablets to wearable devices and remote monitoring tools. At first, the simple speedometer was used to track consumers’ physical activity levels, but this has expanded tremendously in recent years.
For example, researchers from RMIT University have recently developed transparent, wearable sensor patches that can detect UV radiation poisoning and toxic gases like nitrogen dioxide, according to a press release from the college.
The flexible, electronic wearable devices can be used as skin patches or integrated into clothing. These types of wearable devices are truly revolutionizing the medical care sector and bringing futuristic inventions to the here and now. These wearable devices and similar developments can be used to further work safety as well. They can be placed on safety gear to detect harmful gases.
“Hydrogen leaks can lead to explosions as happened with the Hindenburg disaster and nitrogen dioxide is a major contributor to smog,” Dr. Madhu Bhaskaran, project leader and co-leader of the RMIT Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group, said in the release. “The ability to monitor such gases in production facilities and coal-fired power stations gives vital early warning of explosions, while the ability to sense nitrogen dioxide allows for a constant monitoring of pollution levels in crowded cities.”
Before creating these transparent and flexible wearable devices, RMIT’s MicroNano Research Facility was able to develop bendable electronics currently being used in the latest, flexible versions of smartphones.
In an effort to prevent melanoma, these flexible and stretchy electronic sensors can be used to find harmful amounts of UV radiation in the atmosphere. These kinds of wearable devices can play a major role in preventing serious medical conditions like skin cancer.
The patches can be worn directly on the skin similarly to nicotine patches used to help people quit smoking. It is hoped that these wearable devices can be connected to electronic systems that will further help track UV-levels and provide alerts to the consumer when or if radiation rises to a dangerous level.
The UV radiation detection material within the wearable devices is zinc oxide, according to lead author and researcher Dr. Philipp Gutruf. The zinc oxide was used to form incredibly thin coatings – about 100 times thinner than a sheet of paper, the researchers explain.
“This thin zinc oxide layer is engineered with a plate-like structure that we call micro-tectonics. These plates can slide across each other like geological plates that form the earth’s crust allowing for high sensitivity and the ability to bend and flex the devices,” Gutruf explained.
This type of nanotechnology research and development of wearable devices will impact the already growing mobile health industry for years to come. Consumer safety will continue to improve while mobile health apps should stimulate patient engagement with health and wellness goals.