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Consumer Peripherals

New Wearable Sensor Ring Can Detect External Threats to the Wearer

11 October 2017

Wearable sensors are a new trend in the tech world, and they’re not going away anytime soon. Wearable technology can track many things in the body, like heart rates or steps taken in a day. As the trend is growing, the devices are becoming more fashionable, sleek and stylish. But wearable sensors can have applications in detecting external threats to a person. Researchers have created a first-of-its-kind device that can do just that, and they have designed it as a ring to keep it fashionable.

A first-of-its kind ring sensor can detect chemical and biological threats. (American Chemical Society)A first-of-its kind ring sensor can detect chemical and biological threats. (American Chemical Society)

According to a global analyst firm called CCS Insight, wearable electronics will be a $34 billion industry by 2020. Wearable chemical sensors currently in development have many forms, including tattoos, mouth guards, wristbands and headbands. But all of these in-development sensors face challenges. For example, a sweat sensor worn on an arm could be useful, but patients would have to produce enough sweat for the device to be successful.

Currently, there is a demand for sensors that are compact, affordable, and noninvasive and can be incorporated into everyday life. More advanced sensors can be costly and difficult to produce. Joseph Wang and his colleagues at the University of California, San Diego wanted to develop a portable, affordable and wearable sensor that would detect external chemical threats.

The team designed their sensor as a ring that can be worn on the user’s finger. The ring has two parts, an electrochemical sensor cap for detecting chemical and biological agents and a circuit board under the cap for processing and sending data wirelessly to a smartphone or laptop. It can perform voltammetric and chronoamperometric measurements. This allows the ring to detect a wide array of chemical threats.

The team exposed the prototype to explosive and organophosphate nerve agents, both in vapor and liquid phases. The ring was highly selective and sensitive. Although the ring-based sensor was designed to detect explosives and organophosphate nerve agents, the researchers believe the device could be expanded to other hazardous environmental or security agents.

A paper on this wearable tech ring was published in American Chemical Society Sensors journal.

To contact the author of this article, email Siobhan.Treacy@ieeeglobalspec.com


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