To reduce the impact of neuromotor and cognitive developmental disabilities in prematurely born children, a series of cognitive and motor tests have to be conducted in order to detect them early.

Since it is next to impossible to make toddlers wear bulky devices on their hands to judge their motions, Harvard University researchers have developed a soft, non-toxic wearable sensor that when attached to the hand can measure the force of grasp and motion of the fingers.

The research was published in Advanced Functional Materials and was a collaboration between The Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering,  Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston Children’s Hospital.

The fluid in the sensor is a non toxic, highly conductive liquid solution that is no more dangerous than a drop of salt water, according to Siyi Xu, a graduate student at SEAS and first author of the paper. She says that it’s four times more conductive than previous biocompatible solutions, leading to more clean and less noisy data.

While the sensor data becomes noisy when solutions like sodium chloride-glycerol, that takes ten hours to be prepared  are used, the new solution made of potassium iodide, a common dietary supplement and glycerol, a common food additive, is way more conductive and takes only 20 minutes to be made.

This invention has definitely proved to be a breakthrough in the world of science and technology. According to Rob Wood, the Charles River Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SEAS, Founding Core Faculty Member of the Wyss Institute and senior author of the study, “… This will also open up applications in diagnostics, therapeutics, human-computer interfaces and virtual reality.”


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