This ring could be used to sniff out a bomb
Wearable technology has brought gadgets for our convenience, like the smart watch, and for our health, like the glove that aims to abolish symptoms of Parkinson’s. Now the latest aim for the wearable tech sector could be keeping us safe.
A new wearable device can detect chemical or biological threats, from explosives to organophosphates – toxic substances used in insecticides.
The group behind the invention, published in the American Chemical Society, said the sensor was designed as a ring to be worn on a finger. Based on its current appearance, only those wishing to emulate P Diddy would actually wear it as a ring. One exception, perhaps, could be patriotic academics: the researchers have managed to stylishly place their institution, the University of California, logo on the front.
Appearances aside, the ring shows promise for what the future could hold. It works using a hydrogel cover, which chemicals will diffuse through. When they hit a circuit board underneath, changes in the current are recorded and sent to a laptop using Bluetooth LE.
By monitoring how different threats cause different changes in current, the team could work out how to then identify those chemicals based on the activity of the ring.
“Most wearable [devices] measure vital signs for sport or health,” Joseph Wang, a nanoengineer at UC and co-author of the paper, told The Register. Instead, his team wanted to use technology to spot signs of biohazards. Wang and the team expect it to be used in dangerous circumstances, and the reseach was partly funded by the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency Joint Science and Technology Office for Chemical and Biological Defense.
The device could detect five, 50, and 100mg concentrations of 2,4-dinitrotoluene (DNT) powder, a precursor to TNT.
But others are unsure of how the ring would work over time, or whether soldiers would want to wear such a ring. If its bulkiness could be improved upon, this would be better. Perhaps being made into part of a piece of clothing, for example, Raz Jelinek from Ben-Gurion University in Israel told The Register.
But the device is sensitive for its size, and it can detect more than one threat at a time, in liquid and gas.
“Such ability of the miniaturised wearable sensor ring platform to simultaneously detect multiple chemical threats in both liquid and vapour phases and alert the wearer of such hazards offers considerable promise for meeting the demands of diverse defense and security scenarios,” the authors said.