Smart Face Masks Could Use Bioactive Inks to Monitor Body and Environment

Researchers at Tufts University  have created biomaterial-based inks that respond to chemicals released from the body (like sweat) or in the surrounding environment, by changing color. The inks can be screen-printed onto textiles like clothes, shoes, and face masks. They can be printed in complex patterns and at high resolution, providing a detailed map of human response or exposure. The advance could detect and quantify a range of biological conditions, molecules and, possibly, pathogens over the surface of the body. The components that make the sensing garments possible are biologically activated, silk-based inks. The soluble silk substrate in these ink formulations can be modified by embedding “reporter” molecules – such as pH-sensitive indicators, or enzymes like lactate oxidase to indicate levels of lactate in sweat.