MIT researchers developed a “smart” and low-cost diaper, equipped with a moisture sensor, which alerts the child’s parents (or those who look after the person who wears it in general) when it is wet: Once the sensor detects moisture, it sends a signal to a nearby receiver, which in turn sends an update to a smartphone, or computer.
The sensor consists of an RFID tag, placed under a layer of super-absorbent polymer; a type of hydro-gel used in diapers to absorb moisture. When this hydro-gel gets wet, the material expands and becomes slightly conductive; enough to trigger the RFID tag to send a radio signal to an RFID receiver about one meter away.
According to MIT News, the researchers say this is the first time the hydro-gel has been used as a functional antenna to detect moisture in diapers through RFID. As they estimate, the sensor costs little (under two cents), so it is a low-cost, consumable alternative to other “smart” diaper technology solutions.
In the long run, “smart” diapers could be used to record and identify specific health problems. The new sensor can be very useful for staff working in neonatal units and taking care of many babies at the same time.
Panhouri Sen, a researcher at MIT’s Auto-ID Laboratory, envisions integrating this sensor into adult diapers, used by patients who either don’t understand or are ashamed to admit that they need change.
“Diapers are not only used for babies, but also for elderly populations, or patients who are obese and unable to take care of themselves”,
“It would be convenient in such cases for a nurse to be informed that a patient, especially in a hospital with many beds, needs change.”
As another of the researchers, Sai Nithin R. Candaredi, added, this would help significantly to avoid irritations, but also infections on the urogenital tract; both in babies and in the elderly.