This Underwater Movement Sensor Can Detect When a Swimmer Might Be Drowning

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Underwater movement sensor
Testing the underwater sensor with a dummy

Over the year, many flexible fitness trackers could not be submerged in water because the coatings required to completely seal these devices would make them uncomfortable to wear. Thanks to new technologies, researchers have successfully applied a thin, slippery coating to a conductive fabric, creating a breathable underwater movement sensor. They integrated this sensor into a smart device that sends a wireless notification to a smartphone app when a swimmer stops moving, indicating that they may be drowning. According to the American Chemical Society (ACS) Nano publication, this is the first underwater movement sensor that could save a swimmer from drowning.

The latest tech shows a lot of promising features; such as monitoring heart rate and tracking swimmers’ activity and safety. Also, the current methods to protect these electronics make the devices thick and impermeable to air, and this could lead to skin irritation.

underwater movement sensor

The previous research carried out, showed that though thin even layers of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) repelled enough water, thereby forming a protection layer that is flexible to movement sensors underwater. However, it was still quite unclear whether the coating would be comfortable. So, a team emerged to conduct this experiment. Among them were Jianying Huang, Cheolmin Park, Yuekun Lai and colleagues who wanted to test PDMS as a water-repellent coating for a fabric-based sensor that would be part of a wireless underwater movement detection system.

During this experiment, the researchers dipped a piece of polyester knit fabric into a graphene oxide solution and then into hydroiodic acid. The last dip was into a solution containing PDMS microparticles and nanoparticles.

underwater movement sensor

Initial tests revealed that the coated fabric was conductive and water-repellent while remaining permeable to air. This suggested that the material would feel comfortable to wear. On attaching a sample of this coated fabric to a person’s finger and then bent while underwater, an electrical response was produced; making the design unique and one of a kind. The research team then integrated a power supply unit to the fabric-based sensor alongside a data collector to create a smart underwater movement sensor system; this could wirelessly transmit the electrical response produced to a smart phone. A test was run when the smart underwater movement sensor device was attached to a motorized swimming doll, and the app was successful in tracking the doll’s kicking legs.

In order to simulate drowning or a swimmer in distress, the doll’s kicking motion was turned off. And then the app detected this change also and sent a red warning message. According to the researchers, this is because the smart underwater movement sensor repels water; it could help monitor swimmers’ safety and be used in other types of underwater sensors.


This latest technology could be the safety measure we have been waiting for to help rescue non-professional swimmer. Let us know your thoughts about what you think. This could be the big next thing.

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