Japan sensor will let diaper say baby needs changing

Feb 10, 2014
University of Tokyo professor Takao Someya pictured with the world's first disposable wireless organic sensor embedded in a diaper on February 9, 2014

A disposable organic sensor that can be embedded in a diaper and wirelessly let a carer know it needs changing was unveiled by Japanese researchers on Monday.

The flexible integrated circuit printed on a single plastic film transmits information and receives its power wirelessly, and could potentially be manufactured for a few yen (US cents), the developers told AFP.

The system, which uses organic materials that can be printed with , was developed by a team led by professors Takayasu Sakurai and Takao Someya at the University of Tokyo.

In addition to use in infants' diapers, the technology can be applied to adult nappies, which are a big-seller in rapidly-ageing Japan.

Regular diapers change colour to indicate they are wet, but a care-giver still needs to take off the wearer's clothes to see.

"If sensing is done electronically, you can tell simply by coming close to the wearer—without unclothing him or her," Someya said.

The technology could also be put directly on the skin like a plaster, in place of often ring-shaped devices currently used in hospitals to monitor pulse and , he said.

Healthcare sensors often use silicon and other relatively rigid materials that can cause their users discomfort.

University of Tokyo professor Takao Someya holds the world's first disposable wireless organic sensor on February 9, 2014

The flexibility of a single sheet of reduces discomfort for wearers and means it can be applied to a larger number of places—offering greater potential for doctors or carers to monitor well-being.

The prototype system that has been developed is capable of monitoring wetness, pressure, temperature and other phenomena that cause a change in electrical resistance, said Someya, but the team would like to refine it to reduce its power consumption before it goes into widespread use.

Currently the data-reading device needs to be a few centimetres (inches) from the sensor, but Someya said the team was exploring how practical this is and whether they can boost the distance.

Researchers are to unveil their work at an academic gathering now under way in San Francisco.

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User comments : 2

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daqddyo
1.3 / 5 (3) Feb 10, 2014
I've had a similar functioning device forever, and it is reusable and wireless! It is right in front of my face.
This invention looks like a device that could be nominated for an Ignoble Prize.
tscati
5 / 5 (1) Feb 10, 2014
A range of very cheap, flexible sensors (ideally also re-usable and washable) seems like an excellent idea, with potential use in many areas. Monitoring for leaking washing machines? Greenhouse temperature sensors? Range problem could be solved by having an external receiver/booster (battery powered) that's placed/worn near the sensor and provides longer range transmission.

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