Scimex: RMIT University researchers have created wearable sensor patches that detect harmful UV radiation and dangerous, toxic gases such as hydrogen and nitrogen dioxide. These transparent, flexible electronics – which can be worn as skin patches or incorporated into clothing - are bringing science fiction gadgets closer to real life. Dr Madhu Bhaskaran, project leader and co-leader of the RMIT Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group, said the sensors can be placed on work and safety gear to detect dangerous gases.
"Hydrogen leaks can
lead to explosions as happened with the Hindenburg disaster and nitrogen
dioxide is a major contributor to smog," she said.
to monitor such gases in production facilities and coal-fired power
stations gives vital early warning of explosions, while the ability to
sense nitrogen dioxide allows for a constant monitoring of pollution
levels in crowded cities."
The latest development follows RMIT's
MicroNano Research Facility breakthrough in bendable electronics which
has paved the way for flexible mobile phones.
Lead author, PhD
researcher Philipp Gutruf, says the unbreakable, stretchy electronic
sensors are also capable of detecting harmful levels of UV radiation
known to trigger melanoma.
Much like a nicotine patch, they can be
worn on the skin. In future, they will be able to link to electronic
devices to continuously monitor UV-levels and alert the user when
radiation hits harmful levels.
Gutruf said the research used zinc
oxide - present in most sunscreens as a fine powder mixed into a lotion -
as the UV sensing material.
Zinc oxide was used in the form of very thin coatings over a hundred times thinner than a sheet of paper.
thin zinc oxide layer is engineered with a plate-like structure that we
call micro-tectonics, these plates can slide across each other bit like
geological plates that form the earth's crust allowing for high
sensitivity and the ability to bend and flex the devices," he said.
Bhaskaran said the sensors are cheap and durable – attributes which
will see flexible electronics and sensors become an integral part of