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A wearable sensor that tracks your nicotine exposure from e-cigarettes

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Some studies show that nicotine, which is found in electronic cigarettes, increases the risk of heart and respiratory problems.

But to get a full picture of how it might affect your health, you need a real-time nicotine monitoring device. Such a device could also help vapers, as well as non-vapers who come into contact with second-hand smoke, figure out how much they’ve been exposed to.

Now, researchers say in ACS Sensors that they’ve made a battery-free, wearable device that could do this job.

E-cigarettes are meant to heat and aerosolize a nicotine, glycerine, propylene glycol, and flavoring additives mixture that the user then inhales. This mixture can have a wide range of effects in the body, including the respiratory system, where it changes airflow, increases oxidative stress, and affects immunity.

Furthermore, nicotine use can result in lung cancer. However, determining that exposure in real-world conditions has proven problematic. Current tests for assessing ambient nicotine levels are performed in laboratories and demand huge sample volumes and several days to weeks of sampling.

As an alternative, portable nicotine sensors are being developed, however, the two that have been created are impractical because they rely on the presence of perspiration or sunlight to function.

So Madhu Bhaskaran, Md. Ataur Rahman, and Philipp Gutruf set out to create a lightweight, wearable sensor capable of detecting nicotine in real time and wirelessly transmitting the data to electronic devices such as smartphones.

As the basis for its sensor, the researchers chose vanadium dioxide (VO2) on a polyimide substrate. They demonstrated that nicotine may link covalently to a thin film of VO2, modifying the conductivity of the film to varying degrees depending on nicotine content.

The device detects changes in conductivity, amplifies the signal, and wirelessly transfers it to a smartphone. The battery-free sensor, when placed to the skin, may assess the wearer’s exposure to vaporized nicotine in open air.

According to the researchers, this strategy broadens the application of wearable electronics for real-time monitoring of harmful compounds in the environment.

Source: 10.1021/acssensors.1c01633

Image Credit:ACS Sensors 2021

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