A smart pill bottle that sends wireless alerts when it detects tampering, overdose or unsafe storage conditions is just one of many potential health applications for new sensor technology being developed by a team at KAUST.
Digital technology offers opportunities to improve traditional approaches to issues threatening human health. For example, networks of tiny wearable sensors deployed in hospitals can be used to track influenza outbreaks in real time. But the high costs associated with electronic manufacturing means that these sensors aren’t available where they’re needed most—to the low-income populations that suffer disproportionately from epidemics.
Muhammad Hussain, doctoral student Sherjeel Khan and colleagues are working to make sensors more accessible using cheaper materials. For example, they recently demonstrated that it is feasible to create temperature and humidity sensors from paper by drawing circuits with conductive ink.
The team has now developed a stretchy sensor—an anisotropic conductive tape with a range of touch-sensitive applications. Assembled by sandwiching tiny silver particles between two layers of adhesive copper tape, the new material is nonconductive in its normal state. But when pressed by a finger, the double-layered tape makes an electrical connection that sends a signal to an external reader.
“Similar devices have been used in flat panel displays,” explains Khan, “but we’ve made them simple to build and easy to use by almost anyone.”
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