Ankur Shukla, Amit Kumar Mandal

Ph.D. Research Scholar, Department of Textile and Fibre Engineering Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.

Abstract

The healthcare industry has come a long way from cosmetics to sanitary products for adults and babies. A diaper is one of the valuable products that is useful for both babies and adults. Diaper saturation is a serious problem for babies as well as for the patients with dementia, because they are unable to change damp diapers themselves and wearing damp diapers causes rashes and fever in children. Another major issue with ladies’ sanitary pads is due to overflow during menstruation. To address the problems mentioned above, smart textiles can be used as a tool to detect the liquid leakage from the diapers or pads.he advent of smart technologies has led to development of a number of wearable smart textile-based devices for healthcare monitoring that has made remote monitoring of the patients much easier. Recent researchers are also focusing on importance of smart diapers. The early detection of wetness of diapers in case of children and bed ridden adults is much more important from health perspective as pro- longed use of wet diapers or pads result in skin problems like rashes or fungal infections.

As per the reports from Technavio.com, the diaper market is a growing industry with a CAGR of 7%. The market is mainly covered by few key players including Pampers, Huggies, Mamy Poko and Libero as reported by Cyber Media Research (2016). Without innovative products it would be hard for new players to sustain in the market. Along with the increase in sales and growth of hygiene products, regular increase in the sales of rashes cream can be observed from the data of grandviewresearch.com.

This indicates the similar trends of increasing skin problems with increasing sales of hygiene products.

Even in case of females, the menstrual cycle leads to unimaginable discomforts in day-to-day life. Thus, the requirement of wetness detection devices is not limited to diapers only but also for adult sanitary products. Studies have been focused on developing an extremely low-cost diaper moisture sensor which could be embedded to baby diapers with great ease. The sensors are often based on hydrogels or an RFID which requires an RFID reader for detection of moisture. The RFID reader must be within a readable range of the sensor which may not be possible to carry always when you are outside. Also, the sensor could not sense the moisture from outside the diaper which may be required in case of adults.

Another approach utilises NFC reader in mobile where two capacitive electrodes are embedded into the garments and NFC reader is used for detection of the wetness. The advantage of such NFC based device is that it does not require a battery to be embedded in the garments or diaper. Another advanced system of wetness detection has been reported where GSM based system is used for contacting the care giver at the time of wet- ting of diaper. But such systems using radio frequencies may have negative effects on babies. Researchers have also developed textile-based moisture sensor matrix for detection of wetness in bed ridden patients. The matrix can be woven using conductive yarns and wires and a sandwich layer type sensor can also be fabricated for detection of wetness on the cushions.

By using a conductive polymer-based printed sensor design also, the wetness in diapers or pads that have become saturated due to prolonged use, can be detected as reported in the current article. The design provides a lot of flexibility at a low cost and with a quick response time.

In the present study, a conductive polymer-based paste is used to print a pattern on a non-woven fabric layer for the sensing purpose. The fabric containing the printed pattern can be placed beneath the moisture absorbent layer inside the diaper or the pads. The printed pattern is made up of an array of conductive lines that runs across the fabric surface. When the diaper’s or sanitary pad’s absorbing layer becomes saturated with liquid, it will no longer be able to hold it. As the moisture encounters the sensing layer the printed pattern which acts as interdigitated electrodes, generates a response. The system is connected to a micro-controller which differentiates between the wet and dry state of the sensing fabric. This microcontroller can be further connected to a sound alarm or any other digital notification system that alert the caretaker to do the required change.

The use of such sensing fabric is not limited to diapers and sanitary pads; it can be used in any situation where liquid leakage is harmful and must be sensed, such as storage containers, water-proof packaging, etc. The additional advantage of this fabric is that it can be used for one time detection and discarded. The circuit can also be linked to a smartphone app to ensure that the required actions are taken on time.

However, the sensor needs to be developed based on its application since many products are disposed after their use whereas few products are not disposed of after the use. The product is in initial stages and still requires much consideration to increase its scalability keeping in mind the comfort of the wearer.

Baby diaper connected to Arduino uno microprocessor for liquid sensing

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