Wearable sensor that alerts users to varying levels of human fitness

Researchers from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia have developed a prototype wearable sensor with the new MXene–hydrogel compound to track muscle movement by producing distinct electrical resistance patterns as mechanical stress increased, building on their 2019 research on MXene composite electrode that could absorb perspiration and detect several analytes in human sweat, including glucose and lactic acid. When the sensor is subjected to extra ions in the form of acidic or basic solutions, these patterns change instantly.

MXenes are ultrathin nanomaterials with high electrical conductivity and strong surface charges that can be used in electronic devices and biosensors. The substance is made up of non-toxic metals like titanium that have been combined with carbon or nitrogen atoms.

MXene sheets were recently coupled with hydrogels, or water-filled polymers that can stretch and are compatible with human tissues, by the research team. The hydrogel's high concentration of mobile ions causes it to be extremely sensitive to mechanical strain during vigorous physical activity.

"The MXene sheets are arbitrarily arranged within the hydrogel at first, but when you apply pressure to them, they become more horizontally oriented," Husam Alshareef, Professor of Material Science and Engineering at KAUST, noted. "We can quantify different amounts of pressure change because MXenes have a significant concentration of negative charges on their surfaces, and horizontal layouts strongly alter ion movements within the hydrogel."

This prompted the researchers to develop a device that can link pH changes in perspiration to acid buildups in muscle cells, which causes weariness.

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