Flexible copper sensor made cheaply from conductive copper adhesive tape, sheet of transparency film, paper label, nail varnish, circuit fabrication solution, and acetone. (Credit: Anderson 0323 M. de Campos)

Researchers have developed a portable sensor made of simple materials to detect heavy metals in sweat, which is easily sampled. The sensor is simple in terms of the materials used to make it and the stages of its production. The base of the device is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), on top of which is a conductive flexible copper adhesive tape with the sensor printed on it, and a protective layer of nail varnish or spray. The exposed copper is removed by immersion in ferric chloride solution for 20 minutes, followed by washing in distilled water to promote the necessary corrosion.

The device is connected to a potentiostat to determine the concentration of each metal by measuring differences in potential and current between electrodes. The result is displayed on a computer or smartphone using appropriate application software.

The sensor’s performance in detecting lead and cadmium was assessed in trials using artificial sweat enriched under ideal experimental conditions. Adaptations are required before the device can be patented.

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