Tiny Tooth Sensor Monitors Dietary Intake, Sends Info to a Mobile Device

The researchers liken the sensor to a highway toll, transmitting data wirelessly as a radiofrequency
The researchers liken the sensor to a highway toll, transmitting data wirelessly as a radiofrequency

Researchers have developed a 2mm x 2mm tooth sensor that can be used to monitor nutrient intake. The current iteration of the sensor is limited to transmitting glucose, salt and alcohol information to mobile devices, however the researchers say future adaptations could record a far greater range of nutrients. 

The researchers, from Tufts University, MA, wanted to create a dietary monitor that was comfortable for the wearer and didn't require frequent replacement. The sensor consists of 3 layers: a central "bioresponsive" layer that absorbs the nutrient and outer layers consisting of 2 square-shaped gold rings. The nutrient data is collected and then transmitted to a device through radiofrequency. 

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"We have extended common RFID [radiofrequency ID] 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," said Fiorenzo Omenetto, PhD, corresponding author and Professor of Engineering at Tufts. 

When the central layer of the sensor comes in contact with 1 of the pre-defined nutrients (in the current case salt, glucose or alcohol), it's electrical properties change and the sensor absorbs and transmits a different spectrum of radiofrequency waves with varying intensity. 

Beyond expanding the sensor's nutrient reading capabilities, the researchers believe that the sensor could be used on other areas of the body for monitoring other metrics. 

Full findings from the research will be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Advanced Materials (Tseng P. et al. DOI:10.1002/adma.201703257). Funding for the study came from U.S. Army Natick Solider Research, the National Institute of Health, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and the Office of Naval Research. 

For more information visit Tufts.edu.