Reusable UV sensor materials for smart, non-powered wearables

The Issue

Over-exposure to UV radiation is a clear and present danger in Australia, leading to skin damage and melanoma. While over-exposure can have negative effects, at the right dose it can also have health benefits through the production of Vitamin D. The key is knowing what dose we are receiving and when we have had too much. The challenge is to provide this feedback to an individual instantly, encouraging them to change their behaviour, to alter their level of risk.

Wearable sensors can provide early measurable detection of UV exposure received. While wearable sensors do exist on the market, they are either complex digital technologies (eg smart watches), or simple single-use wearable bands. What is needed in the market is a simple and reusable solution, that can be developed into products that appeal to people.

The QUT Solution

QUT is developing a new range of materials that can detect the UV radiation in sunlight and provide a simple and rapid estimation of dose through a visual colour change. The key innovation for our solution is that these materials are reusable, with simple processes for resetting the device ready for use again the next day.

These materials are a platform technology that can be integrated with a range of fabrication techniques and will allow for integration into clothing, jewellery, accessories, and other wearables. They are unpowered and do not require digital technology to function, but there is the opportunity to integrate with smart phone technology for tracking exposure.

Potential Applications

  • Smart wearable fashion accessories, including watches, jewellery, and sunglasses.
  • Responsive clothing and swimwear.
  • Personal protective equipment for OHS protection in sunlight.
  • Cosmetics and body paints.

Key Projected Feature and Benefits

Benefits for customers include:

  • Reusable: the colour change can be reversed, resetting the device for use again, leading to a more sustainable product.
  • Measurement of exposure: calibration of colours to provide an easy-to-read measurement of dose of UV, specific to the user’s skin type.
  • Fabrication into a wide range of consumer products: through a platform materials technology.
  • Industry 4.0 ready: adaptable to 3D printing and other additive manufacturing technologies, as well as traditional processes such as casting and extrusion.

The Opportunity

We are currently looking for partners to develop our proof-of-concept devices into thoughtfully designed prototypes for consumer products. This will help us understand how the potential of our technology can meet the requirements of consumers and keep them safe.

Prior to conducting this next stage of development, QUT is initiating discussions with a range of leading organisations in strategic market segments. QUT wishes to explore tailoring our technology to the market’s needs and discuss future partnering options that will realise the benefits of this technology.

Performance Potential

The QUT technology works rapidly and with high sensitivity under both controlled laboratory and sunlight conditions. The colour can be reset using simple and safe processes, applicable for use at home. This is the first reported example of an unpowered material that can be reset and reused, providing a more sustainable solution for the market.

At this stage the technology is highly sensitive and rapid, with current work on tuning the sensitivity to provide an estimation of exposure over time. Other potential developments include decreasing the time and energy associated with resetting the device.

In addition to the materials development, QUT has investigated how potential consumers of key target demographics would use and interact with potential devices. Of particular interest is the young adult demographic from 18-30, who are at significant risk in Australia. This insight has led to a series of design briefs and design portfolios that can be used to aid in product development

The Way Forward

If your organisation is interested in discussing the opportunity to explore our technology, please advise us of any additional information you require. At your convenience, a meeting can be arranged.

Interested in learning more?

Contact Dr Nathan Boase