Tooth-mounted sensor can track dietary intake

Tooth-mounted sensor can track dietary intake

Technology News |
By Rich Pell

The tiny sensor communicates with a mobile device and can transmit information on glucose, salt, and alcohol intake. Such sensor technology, say the researchers, could eventually enable the detection and recording of a wide range of nutrients, chemicals, and physiological states.

Unlike previous wearable devices for monitoring dietary intake – which had bulky wiring or required mouth guards or frequent replacement of sensors – the tooth sensor is only 2 x 2 mm in size and can flexibly conform and bond to the irregular surface of a tooth. It is comprised of three sandwiched layers – a central “bioresponsive” layer that absorbs the nutrient or chemicals to be detected, and two outer layers consisting of two square-shaped gold rings.

Together, the three layers act like an antenna, both collecting and transmitting radio-frequency waves. The sensor transmits data wirelessly in response to an incoming RF signal; when an incoming signal reaches the sensor, some of that signal is canceled out and the rest is transmitted back.

Depending on the nutrient or chemical that the central layer of the sensor is exposed to, its electrical properties will shift. As a result, the sensor will absorb and transmit a different spectrum of RF waves, with varying intensity, allowing for the detection and identification of the chemical.

“In theory we can modify the bioresponsive layer in these sensors to target other chemicals – we are really limited only by our creativity,” says Fiorenzo Omenetto, Ph.D., corresponding author of a paper on the research and the Frank C. Doble Professor of Engineering at Tufts. “We have extended common RFID technology to a sensor package that can dynamically read and transmit information on its environment, whether it is affixed to a tooth, to skin, or any other surface.”

Currently the sensor is said to last a day or two in a person’s mouth, but the researchers hope to extend the time it can remain active under use in future versions. Looking ahead, they see possible applications ranging from nutrition monitoring and monitoring dental health, to medical applications through using saliva sampling.

The full study – “Functional, RF-trilayer sensors for tooth-mounted, wireless monitoring of the oral cavity and food consumption” – will be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Advanced Materials (Tseng P. et al. DOI:10.1002/adma.201703257).

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