Creating "fuel gauges" for Airmen is the goal of a group of researchers at the 711 Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Led by Dr. Josh Hagen, lead researcher, the group is developing bandage-like sensors that will analyze sweat to assess physical and cognitive performance. The sensors will then notify users when stress, dehydration, and other health related issues show up in the body.
"Our vision is that every Airman at the beginning of their week, will be able to put on an electronic band aid that will quantify everything about them," said Hagen. "It would measure the typical things a doctor would measure in a checkup."
Hagen said that the wearable sensors could benefit Airmen by allowing them to better understand their body, including their own levels of fatigue.
"These sensors could improve physical training results by helping users identify their optimal workout zone," he said. "For folks who are staring at a computer screen all day and getting foggy and cognitively fatigued, the sensor would notify them and suggest that they grab a cup of coffee or take a break."
Hagen said that there are many practical applications for the non-invasive sensor technology.
For example, sensors that identify hydration levels would benefit athletes, firefighters, police officers and others who have jobs with high levels of physical activity. The sensor, which is currently being developed by Hagen's team and researchers at the University of Cincinnati, would track their hydration levels by measuring electrolytes coming out of their sweat, and would alert them if they were trending in a direction of dehydration or heat stress.
"The strength of the sensor is that it could help you tune the electrolyte balance you need to replenish your body," said Hagen. "So you don't always have to drink something like Gatorade, because sometimes water is better."
Hagen and his team are working with pediatric specialists at Cincinnati Children's Hospital to find ways to identify pneumonia in kids by using the new technology.
"Pediatrics is a very special example where you don't want to draw blood from kids if you don't have to," Hagen said. "So if pneumonia markers show up in sweat, we can use sensor technology to identify pneumonia in a non-invasive way."
Source and top image: Wright-Patterson Airforce Base
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