Quarter-Sized Sensor Spots Glucose Levels in Sweat

Quarter-Sized Sensor Spots Glucose Levels in Sweat

Penn State-developed device verified by a commercially available glucose monitor.

By Sam Brusco, Associate Editor10.15.21
A Penn State Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics team led by Dorothy Quiggle career development professor Huanyu “Larry” Cheng developed a noninvasive, low-cost sensor capable of detecting glucose in sweat, as published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics. The sensor was first built using laser-induced graphene (LIG) (atom-thick carbon layers).
The LIG was coated in glucose-sensitive nickel to due to its lack of sensitivity to glucose, combined with gold to minimize allergic reaction risk against the skin. Sweat contains 100 times less the glucose concentration of blood. The device’s microfluidic chamber attached to the LIG alloy is smaller than previously developed designs to promote wearability and is porous to allow a range of movement. The entire device is about the size of a quarter.
In proof-of-concept testing, the reusable device was attached to a person’s arm via skin-safe adhesive one and three hours after a meal. The tester then briefly worked out to produce sweat. The glucose reading had dropped from one measurement to the next, verified by a commercially available glucose monitor.
The team intends to improve their prototype to address how the sensor can be used for incremental measurements or continuous monitoring to plan treatment actions. They also hope to expand the platform for more comfortable biomarker monitoring of sweat and interstitial fluids.

“We want to work with physicians and other health care providers to see how we can apply this technology for daily monitoring of a patient,” Cheng said. “This glucose sensor serves as a foundational example to show that we can improve the detection of biomarkers in sweat at extremely low concentrations.” 

(Thumbnail image courtesy of Jia Zhu, Penn State)
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