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Wearable Hydration Status Monitoring

Wearable Hydration Status Monitoring

Dehydration is a serious concern for athletes, warfighters and workers performing demanding tasks in harsh environments, but there currently aren't any fieldable wearable monitors that accurately monitor hydration to indicate the need to rehydrate and/or replenish electrolytes. Through a series of programs funded by the Air Force Research Lab, GE Research is developing a potential solution for hydration status monitoring based on wearable sweat-based sensing.

The primary motivator for this project is the fact that poor hydration has many important effects on the human body's ability to perform in physically and mentally demanding tasks. Extreme dehydration can cause heat stroke and even death, but even relatively mild dehydration can cause mental and physical performance degradations that can have serious consequences in military and civilian (e.g., firefighters, Hazmat personnel, mining operators). Our goal is to develop a simple, wear-and-forget, patch solution to enable real-time monitoring of individuals' hydration status to optimize performance and prevent injury.

GE Research's current solution is a wearable patch capable of sampling sweat microfluidically which is then analyzed in situ to determine various parameters including sweat electrolyte ion concentrations. These data are then used to compute a hydration index via an algorithm running on the device.

This project brings together capabilities from across GE Research including microfluidics, polymeric materials science, sensor development and electronics design.

Project Impact

This project is on-going, but the end goal of fielding a wearable heat stress/hydration status measurement device is to reduce the number of casualties and injuries sustained annually in training and deployment of the armed forces (currently there are thousands of incidents heat-related illness every year in the armed forces), as well as enabling service members to operate in their peak mental and physical state. Outside the armed forces, these devices would have the same benefits for workers in extreme conditions (mining, hazmat rescue, firefighting) and athletes both amateur and professional. 

This is currently an area of intense research with multiple teams funded by DoD, venture capital and internally working to find the right solution in terms of both function and wearability/ruggedness. GE Research, our supply chain partners and collaborators at the Air Force Academy STRONG Lab and UConn Korey Stringer Institute are bringing a unique combination of materials, design and sensor expertise, understanding of the conditions of operation and deep knowledge of the biology of hydration that we believe will be successful.

Acknowledgment/Disclaimer: This work has been sponsored by AFRL, NBMC, NextFlex, and Empire State Development Funds under the contracts number FA8650-13-2-7311-12 and 77815/1138811.
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