Sunday, December 4, 2022

This Smart Sensor Could Monitor Swimmers’ Safety

By Supriya Mangalpalli

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A recent study published in the American Chemical Society describes a breathable underwater movement sensor that wirelessly alerts when a swimmer might be drowning

A Smart sensor to simulate a swimmer in distress (Credit: ACS Nano (2022). DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.2c08325)

An increase in fitness awareness among people is driving huge demand for flexible fitness trackers. The only drawback of these trackers is that they can’t be submerged in water, hence it is difficult to track fitness-related metrics while swimming. Therefore, researchers reporting in ACS Nano have applied with a thin, slippery coating to conductive fabric and developed a breathable underwater movement sensor. Further, the sensor is integrated into a smart device that wirelessly alerts a smartphone app when a swimmer stops moving, to indicate if the person is drowning.

Many essential fitness-related metrics can be tracked using these underwater movement sensors like heart rate and tracking swimmers’ activity and safety. Conventional methods for protecting electronics make devices thick and impermeable to air, which could cause skin irritation. The previous study shows Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) application can also give you enough water repulsion to protect flexible movement sensors underwater but it is still not proven if the coating would be comfortable. Hence, a team of researchers wanted to experiment with PDMS as a water-repellent coating for a fabric-based sensor that could be configured with a wireless underwater movement detection system.

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The researchers dipped a piece of polyester knit fabric into a graphene oxide solution and then into hydroiodic acid. Lastly, the immersion was into a solution containing PDMS microparticles and nanoparticles. Preliminary tests revealed that the coated fabric was conducive and water-repellent and also was permeable to air, making the material comfortable to wear. When a sample of the coated fabric was attached to a person’s finger that was then bent while underwater, it gave a measurable electrical response.

The researchers integrated the fabric-based sensor with a power supply and a data collector to design a smart underwater movement system that could wirelessly transmit the electrical response to a smartphone app. This smart device was attached to a motorized swimming doll, the app tracked the doll’s kicking legs. To simulate a drowning swimmer the doll’s kicking motion was turned off, and the app sent a red warning message. They claim that because the smart movement sensor repels water, it could help monitor swimmers’ safety and be used in other types of underwater sensors.

Click here for the Published Research Paper


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