Skin-interfaced soft microfluidic systems with modular and reusable electronics for in situ capacitive sensing of sweat loss, rate and conductivity†
Important insights into human health can be obtained through the non-invasive collection and detailed analysis of sweat, a biofluid that contains a wide range of essential biomarkers. Skin-interfaced microfluidic platforms, characterized by soft materials and thin geometries, offer a collection of capabilities for in situ capture, storage, and analysis of sweat and its constituents. In ambulatory uses cases, the ability to provide real-time feedback on sweat loss, rate and content, without visual inspection of the device, can be important. This paper introduces a low-profile skin-interfaced system that couples disposable microfluidic sampling devices with reusable ‘stick-on’ electrodes and wireless readout electronics that remain isolated from the sweat. An ultra-thin capping layer on the microfluidic platform permits high-sensitivity, contactless capacitive measurements of both sweat loss and sweat conductivity. This architecture avoids the potential for corrosion of the sensing components and eliminates the need for cleaning/sterilizing the electronics, thereby resulting in a cost-effective platform that is simple to use. Optimized electrode designs follow from a combination of extensive benchtop testing, analytical calculations and FEA simulations for two sensing configurations: (1) sweat rate and loss, and (2) sweat conductivity, which contains information about electrolyte content. Both configurations couple to a flexible, wireless electronics platform that digitizes and transmits information to Bluetooth-enabled devices. On-body field testing during physical exercise validates the performance of the system in scenarios of practical relevance to human health and performance.