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New technology for athletes mouthguards

New technology for athletes mouthguards

Scientists at Xerox Parc are working on a mouthguard that can detect early signs of dehydration, exhaustion, and mental engagement levels, based on nothing more than a sample of your saliva.

The research and development centre is working with flexible hybrid electronics group NextFlex and the University of California in San Diego to develop the smart mouthguard biosensor.

The sensor is made from electronic plastic foil and is designed to fit into an ordinary mouthguard for use in everything from workouts to military missions.

It does this by analyzing the lactate and glucose naturally found in saliva and is able to send this information to a connected smartphone in close to real time.

“The electrochemical sensor system is fabricated on a small, flexible plastic foil that is mounted on a mouthguard,” David Schwartz, Parc’s manager of Energy Devices and Systems said.

“Sensing is through chronoamperometry, an established electrochemical measurement technique, based on enzymatic oxidation of target species.

“Chronoamperometry is known to have high sensitivity, specificity, and capability for quantification of analyte concentrations.”

The electronics are protected from the saliva by an encapsulant, and the batteries are wirelessly rechargeable, which allows the battery electrodes to be completely enclosed.

“The background on the project is that there was some proof-of-concept work already completed with rigid circuit boards, and the question to be answered was, ‘How could you create a form factor that someone would fit comfortably into a person’s mouth so that they would actually wear it?” Jason Marsh, NextFlex’s director of technology, said.

“Parc developed the sensor, conducted small-scale integration on a prototype and NextFlex’s capability is to take the prototype and scale it to be manufacturable in higher volumes.”

The next step is to commercialise the product, but is this the last piece of sporting equipment an athlete wears that can be upgraded through technology?

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