Unlocking a Prospect to Shake Up the Entire Energy Consumption Game

Human beings are known for a myriad of different things, but most importantly, they are known for pursuing growth on a consistent basis. This tendency to improve, no matter the situation, has brought the world some huge milestones, with technology emerging as quite a major member of the group. The reason why we hold technology in such a high regard is, by and large, predicated upon its skill-set, which guided us towards a reality that nobody could have ever imagined otherwise. Nevertheless, if we look beyond the surface for a second, it will become clear how the whole runner was also very much inspired from the way we applied those skills across a real world environment. The latter component, in fact, did a lot to give the creation a spectrum-wide presence, and as a result, initiate a full-blown tech revolution. Of course, this revolution eventually went on to scale up the human experience through some outright unique avenues, but even after achieving a feat so notable, technology will somehow continue to bring forth the right goods. The same has turned more and more evident in recent times, and assuming one new discovery ends up with the desired impact, it will only put that trend on a higher pedestal moving forward.

The researching team at California Institute of Technology has successfully developed a sweat sensor, which leverages the power of a flexible solar cell to become more energy efficient. According to certain reports, the stated solar cell is made from perovskite crystal, a material that shares the chemical structure first found in the mineral calcium titanium oxide. But what’s our incentive to use perovskite in the first place? Well, for starters, it is cheaper to manufacture than silicon. This is because silicon demands you to purify it through an extensive set of procedures. On the other hand, perovskite doesn’t have such a requirement, Next up, the new material in question is also 1,000 times thinner than silicon solar cell layers, something which makes it “quasi-2D”, and therefore, easy to apply across a host of different scenarios. Talk about flexibility, perovskite can be further adjusted in and around the spectrum of lighting, covering all iterations from outdoor sunlight to various forms of indoor lighting. Hold on, the show-stopper is still left. You see, going by various experiments, perovskite solar cells are understood to clock much higher power conversion efficiency (PCE) than silicon. This should basically indicate that they can convert a greater proportion of the received light into usable electricity. To give you some idea regarding the difference between their PCE, silicon solar cells can, at best, reach PCE levels  that range from 26–27% and 18-22% in regular use, whereas  the perovskite solar cell has a record-breaking PCE exceeding 31% under indoor light illumination.

“We don’t want to only use strong sunlight to power our wearables,” said Wei Gao, assistant professor of medical engineering, Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator “We care about more real-life conditions, including normal office and home lighting. Many solar cells have high efficiency in strong sunlight but not in weak indoor lighting conditions. The FPSC on the sweat sensor is particularly well suited to indoor lighting as the spectral response of the FPSC matches well with the common indoor lighting emission spectrum.”

Interestingly enough, Gao and his team have been working on the sensor in question for last five years. Previously, they tried to power it through lithium-ion batteries, but they were found to be too bulky, and they also had to be recharged from an external source of electricity. In a bid to find an alternative, the team turned its attention to silicon solar cells. However, they also ended up proving as overly rigid, inefficient, and reliant on strong lighting conditions. While the team even tried using chemicals in human sweat to do the job, concerns over the method’s stability spelled an end of the effort. Finally, onto the latest version, the new wearable sweat sensor, like its predecessors, is assembled in an origami-like fashion, dedicating each layer to different processes. On a more actionable, there are four main components working in tandem to make the sensor thrive. The first one is all about power management. It bears the responsibility of disbursing electricity harvested by the solar cell. With the second component, we can look to enable iontophoresis, the induction of sweating without any exercise or exposure to high heat required on the part of its wearer. The third focuses on facilitating electrochemical measurement of various substances in the sweat, and as for the fourth, it  manages data processing and wireless communication, which allows the sensor to interface with a cellphone app to display the ongoing results of the monitoring.

Equipped for 12-hour use every day, the sensor, as of today, can provide continuous monitoring of pH, salt, glucose, and temperature, alongside periodic monitoring (every five to 10 minutes) of sweat rate, but it has the space to accommodate more biomarkers in the future. This includes a tool for diabetes management, and detection capabilities for heart disease, cystic fibrosis, gout, and a few other conditions.

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