An international research team has developed a system of battery-free, wireless sensors that allow continuous and full-body monitoring of temperature and pressure.
The study, published on Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, reported the sensors that offer a convenient and non-invasive method to quickly gather physiologically relevant data, may serve as a useful tool in sleep studies and hospital settings.
Closely tracking temperature allows clinicians to gauge circadian rhythms in subjects with sleep disorders, and keeping tabs on skin pressure could help caretakers prevent painful skin sores and irritation that afflicts patients lying in hospital beds for extended periods.
However, current instruments either require using invasive measures such as rectal probes, or only gather information from a single area of the body at one time.
Researchers from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ajou University, Kwangwoon University, Tsinghua University and Northwestern University developed thin, wireless sensors that conform to the surface of the skin and work in concert to map skin temperature and pressure from multiple regions at once.
They placed 65 penny-sized sensors on a human subject, and observed that the sensors reliably recorded and transmitted the subject's temperature over the course of nine hours.
The sensors successfully recorded data on pressure when attached to the back of another subject lying face-up in a hospital bed.
Huang Yonggang, a mechanical engineering professor with Northwestern University and the paper's corresponding author told Xinhua, each device contains a pressure sensor, a temperature sensor and a small Near-field communication (NFC) system.
"Under the hospital bed is a NFC transmitting coil that can be electromagnetically coupled with the NCF system on human body and power the NCF system," said Huang, who is also a foreign academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The study found that temperature and pressure measurements from the sensors were consistent with those from standard wired instruments currently used in medical settings.
They plan on conducting larger clinical studies with patient participants, and will also investigate whether the sensors can be used to monitor other processes, such as heart and respiration rate.