If you ever hear someone mention "Phoenix, AZ," and "summer" in the same sentence, the word "hot" probably comes up at least once. If you're in Phoenix, there might even be some colorful adjectives surrounding the word.
You might also hear people mention that it's a "dry heat." Let me tell you that "dry" doesn't quite do it justice. It's regularly below 10 percent, and I've seen it as low as 2 percent.
At that point, no matter how much water you drink, you still feel parched. Dehydration is a serious, serious concern. People have died while hiking because they only took along one bottle of water.
Now, imagine the danger for construction workers, athletes or soldiers working hard in the same environment. That's why the Sandia National Laboratories, the University of North Carolina and North Carolina University came up with a solution.
What they came up with is a portable dehydration sensor. Stick with me; this is more impressive than it sounds at first.
The sensor is built to sit on a person's wrist and samples the body's electrolyte level with 9 microscopic needles (don't worry; you can't feel them).
Each needle is just 800 millionths of a meter (microns) long. The nine needles sit above fluidic channels capable of transporting the interstitial fluid to nine electrodes. Individual electrodes can be tailored to selectively detect and measure certain electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium and other salts.
The sensor can warn you the instant your levels get low so you can drink some water or other hydrating fluid. A possible future version will be able to pump electrolytes back into the body to keep the levels balanced.
As a jogger and biker myself, I would love to have this kind of sensor.
It isn't just electrolytes this kind of technology could eventually track, however.
The same team of researchers has also considered microneedles for other health-monitoring possibilities. For instance, a previous experiment came up with a sensor array capable of using body fluids drawn by microneedles to measure pH, glucose and lactate levels.
So, would you wear a sensor like this? Let me know in the comments below.