Monitoring urine sugar levels is vital during early stages of diabetes, and diaper sensors represent a beautiful solution. In recent study, scientists from Tokyo University of Science, Japan, developed a completely unique self-powered diaper sensor that generates required electricity directly from urine using biofuel cell. The proposed device can wirelessly transmit the measured glucose concentration & notify the presence of urine, helping prevent diabetes & simplify patient care greatly.
Thanks to science & modern medicine, we all know tons more now about the first signs of certain diseases and which biomarkers to see . most significantly , we’ve the required devices and techniques to conveniently sample and analyze these biomarkers in clinical settings in order that doctors, patients, and caregivers can act accordingly. within the ever-evolving field of healthcare technology, wearable electronics and biosensors are seen as potential game changers, as they permit both medical staff & non-medical people to remotely monitor relevant bodily variables.
In the specific case of diabetes — a comparatively common disease — monitoring blood glucose levels is crucial. Fortunately, urine sugar levels provide indirect information about blood glucose levels and may be used as an alternate biomarker to avoid drawing blood constantly. Moreover, to me-asure urine sugar levels in elderly or long-term care patients, sensors are often embedded directly into their diapers. By wirelessly transmitting the acquired data, diaper sensors can greatly simplify caretaking & health monitoring tasks. However, both sensors and wireless transmitters require an energy source to function and putting batteries in diapers could also be a questionable solution from both environmental and practical standpoints.
Fortunately, scientists from Japan have figured out an answer to the present problem. In recent study published in ACS Sensors, professor Isao Shitanda, Professor Masayuku Itagaki, and Mr. Yuki Fujimura from Tokyo University of Science (TUS), Japan, present a promising approach to realizing self-powered diaper sensors which will generate energy directly from urine. This work done in collaboration with professor Seiya Tsujimura from the University of Tsukuba, Japan. Worth noting, this work is in line with other research efforts of Dr. Shitanda and his colleagues to develop self-powered biosensors like a lactate sensor energized entirely by sweat.
But how do 1 generate enough electricity from urine to power a sensor? the solution lies in electrochemistry. The scientists developed a paper-based biofuel cell that, through a pair of reduction-oxidation reactions, outputs electric power proportional to the quantity of glucose within the urine. Important considerations within the design of such biofuel cells are the quantity of urine needed to ge-nerate enough power and therefore the overall stability and sturdiness of the device. With this in mind, the scientists developed a special anode, the negative terminal of an electrochemical cell, employing a process referred to as “graft polymerization” that allowed them to firmly anchor glucose-reactive enzymes and mediator molecules to a porous carbon layer, which served as base conductive material.
The scientists tested their self-powered biosensor in diapers using artificial urine at various glucose concentrations. They used the generated energy to power up a Bluetooth Low Energy transmitter, and remotely monitored the measured concentration employing a smartphone. They found that the biofuel cell could detect urine sugar during a very short time (within 1 second).
“Besides monitoring glucose within the context of diabetes, diaper sensors are often wont to remotely check for the presence of urine if you stock-up on sugar as fuel beforehand . In hospitals or medical care sites, where potentially many diapers need to be checked periodically, the proposed device could take an excellent weight off the shoulders of caregivers,” comments Dr. Shitanda.
In short, the sensor that Dr. Shitanda’s team has engineered can’t only prevent diabetes, but also make diaper management more efficient and responsive without compromising the environment. “We believe the concept developed in this study could become a really promising tool towards the overall development of self-powered wearable biosensors,” says Dr. Shitanda.
Let’s hope future studies will further improve upon wearable biosensors powered by our own body fluids.
The findings published in the Journal ACS Sensors.