Scientists from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia have developed a device which can sense harmful rays of ultraviolet (UV) radiation and prevent skin cancer. Users will be alerted about the UV rays with this ‘smart skin’ device. These are electronic wearable ultraviolet light sensors that work better than other sensors. They are transparent and stretchable and can be worn as skin patches without giving any indication to others. The findings of the researchers from the RMIT University were published in the journal Small.
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The researchers explained their findings in the journal “The ability to operate electronic devices under various mechanically stressed states can provide a set of unique functionalities that are beyond the capabilities of conventional rigid electronics.”
The wearable was developed by the team using thin layers of zinc oxide. These layers act as UV light sensors. Philipp Gutruf told the Sydney Morning Herald that the device could be turned into a band or a patch which is linked to another device, like a smartphone or a tablet, without any wires and will alert the users about high levels of ultraviolet radiation.
He said “If you are at the beach you could wear this device around your wrist or as a skin patch and jump into the ocean, it will be able to monitor the UV levels and tell you if you have had too much.”
— RMIT University (@RMIT) June 11, 2015
The Vital Breakthrough
The main breakthrough in the research is the use of rubber instead of a silicon base. This makes the device more flexible. The patch is 100 times thinner than a sheet of paper and is unbreakable.
Gutruf said “This has been hard to do because rubber doesn’t usually withstand the temperatures of processing. Because they are so flexible and stretchable you can integrate them into clothes, backpacks, gloves and so on.”
According to the researchers, the device could also sense toxic gases like nitrogen dioxide and hydrogen. This makes it a potential device to monitor air pollution and it could also be used in coal industries.
Dr Madhu Bhaskaran, project leader and co-leader of the RMIT Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group, said “Hydrogen leaks can lead to explosions as happened with the Hindenburg disaster and nitrogen dioxide is a major contributor to smog. The smart thing here is that these sensors can be integrated very easily either into clothing or onto the skin. It is a seamless way of integrating sensors on to the human body.”
We are gradually progressing towards a future where wearable devices will be used increasingly in healthcare.
What do you think about this wearable device? Should more such devices be developed? We would like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.