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Skin Hardness to Estimate Better Human Thermal Status
(Professor Young-Ho Cho and Researcher Sunghyun Yoon) Under the same temperature and humidity, human thermal status may vary due to individual body constitution and climatic environment. A KAIST research team previously developed a wearable sweat rate sensor for human thermal comfort monitoring. Furthering the development, this time they proposed skin hardness as an additional, independent physiological sign to estimate human thermal status more accurately. This novel approach can be applied to developing systems incorporating human-machine interaction, which requires accurate information about human thermal status. Professor Young-Ho Cho and his team from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering had previously studied skin temperature and sweat rate to determine human thermal comfort, and developed a watch-type sweat rate sensor that accurately and steadily detects thermal comfort last February (title: Wearable Sweat Rate Sensors for Human Thermal Comfort Monitoring ). However, skin temperature and sweat rate are still not enough to estimate exact human thermal comfort. Hence, an additional indicator is required for enhancing the accuracy and reliability of the estimation and the team selected skin hardness. When people feel hot or cold, arrector pili muscles connected to hair follicles contract and expand, and skin hardness comes from this contraction and relaxation of the muscles. Based on the phenomenon of changing skin hardness, the team proposed skin hardness as a new indicator for measuring human thermal sensation. With this new estimation model using three physiological signs for estimating human thermal status, the team conducted human experiments and verified that skin hardness is effective and independent from the two conventional physiological signs. Adding skin hardness to the conventional model can reduce errors by 23.5%, which makes its estimation more reliable. The team will develop a sensor that detects skin hardness and applies it to cognitive air-conditioning and heating systems that better interact with humans than existing systems. Professor Cho said, “Introducing this new indicator, skin hardness, elevates the reliability of measuring human thermal comfort regardless of individual body constitution and climatic environment. Based on this method, we can develop a personalized air conditioning and heating system that will allow affective interaction between humans and machines by sharing both physical and mental health conditions and emotions.” This research, led by researchers Sunghyun Yoon and Jai Kyoung Sim, was published in Scientific Reports, Vol.8, Article No.12027 on August 13, 2018. (pp.1-6) Figure 1. Measuring human thermal status through skin hardness Figure 2. The instrument used for measuring human thermal status through skin hardness
Finding Human Thermal Comfort with a Watch-type Sweat Rate Sensor
(from left: Professor Young-Ho Cho and Researcher SungHyun Yoon) KAIST developed a watch-type sweat rate sensor. This subminiature device can detect human thermal comfort accurately and steadily by measuring an individual’s sweat rate. It is natural to sweat more in the summer and less in the winter; however, an individual’s sweat rate may vary in a given environment. Therefore, sweat can be an excellent proxy for sensing core body temperature. Conventional sweat rate sensors using natural ventilation require bulky external devices, such as pumps and ice condensers. They are usually for physiological experiments, hence they need a manual ventilation process or high power, bulky thermos-pneumatic actuators to lift sweat rate detection chambers above skin for continuous measurement. There is also a small sweat rate sensor, but it needs a long recovery period. To overcome these problems, Professor Young-Ho Cho and his team from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering developed a lightweight, watch-type sweat sensor. The team integrated miniaturized thermos-pneumatic actuators for automatic natural ventilation, which allows sweat to be measured continuously. This watch-type sensor measures sweat rate with the humidity rising rate when the chamber is closed during skin contact. Since the team integrated thermos-pneumatic actuators, the chamber no longer needs to be separated manually from skin after each measurement in order for the chamber to ventilate the collected humidity. Moreover, this sensor is wind-resistant enough to be used for portable and wearable devices. The team identified that the sensor operates steadily with air velocity ranging up to 1.5m/s, equivalent to the average human walking speed. Although this subminiature sensor (35mm x 25mm) only weighs 30 grams, it operates continuously for more than four hours using the conventional wrist watch batteries. The team plans to utilize this technology for developing a new concept of cognitive air-conditioning systems recognizing Human thermal status directly; while the conventional air-conditioning systems measuring air temperature and humidity. Professor Cho said, “Our sensor for human thermal comfort monitoring can be applied to customized or smart air conditioners. Furthermore, there will be more demands for both physical and mental healthcare, hence this technology will serve as a new platform for personalized emotional communion between humans and devices.” This research, led by researchers Jai Kyoung Sim and SungHyun Yoon, was published in Scientific Reports on January 19, 2018. Figure1. The fabricated watch-type sweat rate sensor for human thermal comfort monitoring Figure 2. Views of the watch-type sweat rate sensor Figure 3. Operation of the watch-type sweat rate sensor
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