Air Force Research Laboratory developing the world’s first sweat-based biosensors to monitor the content of a person’s sweat in real-time

Sweating the Small Stuff

Air Force Research Laboratory developing the world’s first sweat-based biosensors to monitor the content of a person’s sweat in real-time

January 9, 2018 - In today's ever-changing, fast-paced digital world, it is clear that every aspect of people’s lives are being transformed through emerging technologies that impact the way they work, learn and live. These technological advancements have helped individuals on a national and global scale to digitize, analyze, and simplify the way in which they operate and function on both a personal and professional level.

Innovation is also the foundation of our Nation’s competitiveness in the global economy, and government and industry investment in science and technology (S&T) research is crucial for the U.S. to maintain its competitive-edge. The Department of Defense (DoD), through its laboratories located across the country, explore the fullest range of opportunities to help the warfighter as well as industry, academia, and the public remain abreast of fast-moving and ground-breaking technologies.

Researchers at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) STRONG team, based out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, have discovered that sweat doesn’t just contain salt and water — it’s actually a complex chemical cocktail containing many of the same biomarkers present in the human bloodstream. Through this finding, the laboratory is currently developing cutting-edge flexible and wearable electronics in the form of patches that can monitor the contents of a person’s sweat in real time, providing a continuous stream of data about their hydration, stress levels, and other vital signs.

While these sweat sensors are not going to be market-ready for at least a year, they will eventually be available not only for military use, but also for industry and the public as well. Researchers believe that while these monitors will be used by Air Force fighter pilots, special forces operators, and recruits going through basic training, they will one day also be widely used by civilian doctors, athletes, and casual fitness buffs. The ultimate goal is to boost warfighter performance, prevent injuries, and save lives.

Emily Tully