Researchers at the Tokyo University of Science have developed a new sensor that can be fitted into diapers. But the interesting part is that it can produce the electricity required to run it from urine using a biofuel cell. Besides, it also measures glucose concentrations, helping caregivers monitor the wearer’s diabetes. Scientists say glucose levels in urine are proportional to blood glucose levels.
Usually, needles are used to monitor blood glucose levels by drawing blood directly using heftily priced test strips and glucometers. The sensor is self-powered and requires no external battery to get a charge, as it uses urine as fuel.
Using urine as biofuel
The advent of a self-powered biosensor that can be fitted in a diaper is a significant advancement for medical care, as they can be used by skilled as well as people without any training to monitor diabetes levels, which is a very common disease.
For diabetes patients, monitoring blood sugar levels is imperative, and a sensor of this caliber avoids the use of a needle, which is a reason many people suffering from diabetes don’t monitor their condition properly. Researchers say that the sensor could come in handy to monitor both diabetics and people with pre-diabetic conditions.
While diapers are mostly associated with toddlers, some adult diabetics are unable to get out of bed due to age or injury and use diapers. The sensor uses electrochemistry to produce power from urine. Scientists developed a paper-based biofuel cell that uses a reduction-oxidation reaction to reduce electrical power based on glucose present in the urine.
Is it coming to mainstream market?
A special anode was developed with the help of polymerization using carbon to embed glucose-reactive enzymes and mediator molecules. It works as the base conductive material for the sensor. The power generated by the biosensor powers a Bluetooth Low Energy transmitter sending the measured concentration of glucose to a smartphone.
The team notes that it can extract data for reading in about a second. There’s no word on when to expect the sensor to be available in the market for commercial purposes. But whenever it hits the market shelves, it can change the game altogether.