With the growing popularity of medical wearables, demand for thin wearables is that which can be used to capture and store essential wearer health information. Currently on the market, devices are bulky to wear, offer slow response times and endure a drop-in performance over time. Researchers at the University of Houston have now developed a wearable device that is so thin it’s barely noticeable to the user and lighter than a Band-Aid but can track and record important health information.
According to Cunjiang Yu, Bill D. Cook Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Houston and lead author for the paper, published as the cover story in Science Advances, the device allows the wearer to move naturally and is less noticeable than wearing a band-aid.
“Everything is really thin, only a few microns thick,” said Yu, who is also a lead researcher at UH ‘s Texas Center for Superconductivity. “It’s not going to make you feel it.”
The new device can be used as a prosthetic skin for a robotic hand or other robotic devices, with a robust human-machine interface that allows it to automatically collect information and relay it back to the wearer.
“What if when you shook hands with a robotic hand, it was able to instantly deduce physical condition?” Yu asked – as well as for situations such as chemical spills, which are risky for humans but require human decision-making based on physical inspection.
A polymer-based metal oxide semiconductor provides manufacturing advantages, and can be processed at temperatures below 300 C.
“We report an ultra-thin, mechanically imperceptible and stretchable (human-machine interface) HMI device that is worn on human skin to capture multiple physical data, and also on a robot to provide intelligent feedback, forming a closed-loop HMI,” the researchers wrote. “The multifunctional soft stretchy HMI device is based on a one-step formed, sol-gel-on-polymer-processed indium zinc oxide semiconductor nanomembrane electronics.”