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Diaper that tells when it's time for a change

BOON TO CAREGIVERS: The sensor in this diaper by Prof Someya and his team gets its power wirelessly, and could be manufactured for a few yen.


    Feb 11, 2014

    Diaper that tells when it's time for a change


    JAPANESE researchers yesterday unveiled a disposable organic sensor that can be embedded in a diaper to wirelessly let a caregiver know it needs changing.

    The flexible integrated circuit printed on plastic film transmits information and receives its power wirelessly, and could potentially be manufactured for a few yen, the developers told AFP.

    The system, which uses organic materials that can be printed with inkjet technology, was developed by a team led by professors Takayasu Sakurai and Takao Someya at the University of Tokyo.

    In addition to use in infants' diapers, the technology can be applied to adult nappies, which are a big seller in rapidly ageing Japan.

    Regular diapers change colour to indicate they are wet, but a caregiver still needs to take off the wearer's clothes to see.

    "If sensing is done electronically, you can tell simply by coming close to the wearer - without unclothing him or her," Prof Someya said.

    The technology could also be put directly on the skin like a plaster, in place of often ring-shaped devices currently used in hospitals to monitor pulse and blood oxygen levels, he said.

    Silicon and other relatively rigid materials are often used to make health-care sensors, which can cause their users discomfort.

    The flexibility of the plastic film reduces discomfort for wearers and means it can be applied to a larger number of places, offering greater potential for doctors or caregivers to monitor a wearer's well-being.

    Currently, the data-reading device must be a few centimetres from the sensor to work, but Prof Someya said the team is exploring how practical this is and whether they can boost the range.