Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Australia have developed flexible sensor patches that can detect the presence of toxic gases such as hydrogen and nitrogen dioxide and harmful UV radiation.
The transparent sensors can be worn as patches on the skin like a nicotine patch or incorporated into a person's clothing.
The flexible sensor relies on ultra thin sheets of zinc oxide which is commonly used in sunscreens, as the UV sensing material. Zinc oxide is used in the form of very thin coatings over a hundred times thinner than a sheet of paper.
Lead author Philipp Gutruf said, "Thin zinc oxide layer is engineered with a plate-like structure that we call micro-tectonics, these plates can slide across each other bit like geological plates that form the earth's crust allowing for high sensitivity and the ability to bend and flex the devices."
The sensor is capable of detecting high levels of UV radiation, which can trigger melanoma and help remind people when they need to take a break from the sun.
The sensors can also be placed on work and safety gear to detect dangerous gases such as hydrogen, which could help warn workers in the event of a leak that could lead to an explosion.