Every athlete would like to be faster, stronger and better at their sport. Now, a new biosensor worn like a temporary tattoo can give athletes real-time information about their performance.
The stick-on sensor is worn on the skin during a workout or training session and can detect biomarkers in an athlete's sweat that indicate the body's performance.
“They can assess where you are in the physical capabilities of your body, and by knowing that, you can train more effectively,” said Joshua Windmiller, an electrical engineer and CEO at Electrozyme, a company in La Jolla, Calif.
An armband worn over the tattoo can transmit the information to a mobile device. It helps those exercising to monitor their levels of hydration.
“So as you’re working out and you’re sweating, your hydration gauge will go down, and it will tell you when you need to rehydrate,” said Jared Tangney, a bioengineer and co-founder of Electrozyme.
“Even a 5% reduction in hydration will correspond to a 30% reduction in performance,” said Windmiller.
Other sensors in the tattoo can detect if a workout is too strenuous. For example, the tattoo can measure sodium, or salt levels, in the body and alert the athlete when those levels are too low. It can also tell if the body is making too much lactic acid, which may trigger muscle fatigue and exhaustion.
“It’s useful to maximize your endurance to know when you are about to hit the wall,” Windmiller said.
The tattoos are disposable and created for one-time use. In an initial study, the tattoo stayed attached to the skin for a full 24 hours.
Each tattoo can contain multiple sensors that monitor different elements of a workout and can be adorned with patterns or brand logos.
In the future, the tattoos may also monitor heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other vital signs.
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Joseph Wang, University of California in San Diego