University of Houston Researchers Develop Super Thin Wearable That’s Barely Noticeable to the Wearer

Super thin wearable for healthcare
Image: University of Houston

With the growing popularity of medical wearables, demand is rising for thin wearables that can be used to collect and store important health information about the wearer. Devices currently available in the market are bulky to wear, offer slow response times and suffer 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.

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The device allows the wearer to move naturally and is less noticeable than wearing a Band-Aid, said 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, reports University of Houston.

“Everything is very thin, just a few microns thick,” said Yu, who also is a principal investigator at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH. “You will not be able to feel it.”

Super thin wearable for healthcare

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 metal oxide semiconductor on a polymer base, offers manufacturing advantages and can be processed at temperatures lower than 300 C.

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“We report an ultrathin, mechanically imperceptible, and stretchable (human-machine interface) HMI device, which is worn on human skin to capture multiple physical data and also on a robot to offer 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.”