MIT Researchers Develop Chip-Free Skin Sensor

A wireless wearable skin sensor that can measure activity levels, blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose levels without a bluetooth chip has been developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers. The usage of wearable technology in healthcare is rapidly increasing. The technology is used to treat a variety of medical conditions, including cardiac issues. Researchers from MIT stated that Bluetooth chips used in products are sizable and can cause problems, despite the fact that they are frequently effective. In order to avoid the need for bulky chip implants, MIT engineers developed a wireless wearable skin sensor that can gather several types of health data and monitor it on a smartphone.

“Chips require a lot of power, but our device could make a system very light without having any chips that are power-hungry,” says the study’s corresponding author, Jeehwan Kim, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and of materials science and engineering, and a principal investigator in the Research Laboratory of Electronics. “You could put it on your body like a bandage, and paired with a wireless reader on your cellphone, you could wirelessly monitor your pulse, sweat, and other biological signals.”

Researchers came to the conclusion that the sensor performed effectively in detecting changes linked to the gallium nitride surface acoustic waves, which enabled the collection of data regarding heart rate. “If there is any change in the pulse, or chemicals in sweat, or even ultraviolet exposure to skin, all of this activity can change the pattern of surface acoustic waves on the gallium nitride film,” explained Yeongin Kim, PhD, the study’s first author and a former MIT postdoc. “And the sensitivity of our film is so high that it can detect these changes.” 

In addition, the study’s authors also identified parallels between this invention and an earlier project. Both entail the capacity to remove very thin single-crystalline gallium nitride films. However, the team discovered that gallium nitride could be used in the same manner as silicon to detect surface acoustic waves when developing the wireless skin sensor. “We showed sodium sensing, but if you change the sensing membrane, you could detect any target biomarker, such as glucose, or cortisol related to stress levels,” explained co-author and MIT postdoc Jun Min Suh. “It’s quite a versatile platform.”