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The new 'smart diaper' detects when babies are wet, but parents aren't sure if we really need it

Has technology gone too far?

smart diapers, penn state universiety, moisture sensor
via Pexels

A mother puts a fresh diaper on her baby.

Scientists at Penn State University have devised a “smart diaper” that alerts parents when their baby is wet. The diaper is made of paper, treated with sodium chloride (salt) and has a circuit board drawn with a pencil.

When the humidity level rises in the diaper, the graphite and the urine are absorbed by the paper and it turns on a sensor powered by a small lithium battery. The sensor then sets the alarm on an app that parents download onto their phones.

“The hydration sensor is highly sensitive to changes in humidity and provides accurate readings over a wide range of relative humidity levels, from 5.6% to 90%,” the researchers at Penn State said in a statement.


The new invention is perfect for parents who want to know the exact moment that their child has gone to the bathroom. But it raises some questions. Don't babies already alert us when they're wet? Does everything we do in 2023 have to be connected to an app?

The new development caused a stir on Twitter, where most people think the natural way the babies let us know if they are wet works well enough.

Some even suggested that if you need a phone alert to find out if your baby is wet, you may not be fit to be a parent.

There were also some who raised concerns over the diaper’s safety.

A lot of people wondered if this would lead to irresponsible parenting.


Life with a baby is stressful enough.

Not everyone thinks that the smart diaper is a bad idea.

Although many people are unsure whether we need a massive technological advancement in baby wetness detection, that’s not the only goal of Penn State’s project. The graphite technology has a lot of other uses outside of the crib.

“Our team has been focused on developing devices that can capture vital information for human health,” Huanyu “Larry” Cheng, Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Penn State, said in a statement. “The goal is early prediction for disease conditions and health situations, to spot problems before it is too late.”

Cheng and his fellow engineers hope that their ingenious detection technology will be used to monitor multiple health issues. Their new technology can be placed in a face mask to create a respiration monitor that can distinguish mouth breathing from nose breathing while classifying three breathing states: deep, regular and rapid.

smart diaper, penn state university, moisture monitor

The innner workinds of the "smart diaper"

via Huanyu “Larry” Cheng/Penn State

The data collected from the respiratory monitor can detect various health conditions such as cardiac events, pneumonia and clinical deterioration.

The moisture sensing technology can also help alert healthcare workers to changes in a patient’s condition, whether they are being treated in a hospital setting or being monitored via telemedicine.

“Different types of disease conditions result in different rates of water loss on our skin,” Cheng said. “The skin will function differently based on those underlying conditions, which we will be able to flag and possibly characterize using the sensor.”

The smart diaper may get headlines and cause a snicker or two. But no one should laugh at its unique underlying technology that can detect tiny changes in one's health that are a lot more important than whether someone just used the restroom.

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A woman buying gifts for her nephews.

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via Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

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