University of Nottingham Ningbo China
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New design signals time for diaper change

easy diaper

For every new parent, it can be a challenge to know exactly when to a change baby’s diaper. Changing too often seems unnecessary but if not prompt enough, a diaper rash may result. An innovative diaper design created by graduates and academics from the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) potentially rids new parents of this inconvenience, making a diaper change a simpler decision.

Compared to existing diapers, this new design does not only visually signal babies’ urine but also stool, even in darkness.

The designers used a firefly pattern as the diaper’s main design feature, and this is where the technology lies. The body of the firefly is made of a small transparent window, where parents can notice easily if the diaper is soiled. Wings of the firefly pattern are coated with ink and chlorophyll fluorescent paint. Firefly wings change colour when infants pass waste, as the ink gets washed away, revealing the chlorophyll fluorescent paint underneath.

In darkness, the chlorophyll fluorescent paint enables the wing pattern to glow once the diaper is wet, flagging a potential diaper change. Parents can then take a closer look at the transparent windows to see if their newborns have pooed, without turning the lights on.

Extracted from seaweed, the chlorophyll fluorescent paint is safe and gentle on an infant's sensitive skin.

Named Easy Diaper, the innovative design beat thousands of competitors to win gold at the 2018 International Design Awards. It was co-developed by UNNC graduates Qiushi WANG and Jinzhao LI (both students of Product Design and Manufacturing) and their supervisor, Dr. Xu SUN.

The team said their inspiration came from Dr. SUN’s own maternity experience.

“The majority of current diaper designs only signal a baby’s urine, while the Easy Diaper can tell more than that,” Dr. SUN said, “Day or night, it indicates the urgency of a diaper change as straightforwardly as a traffic light. It should ease panic for many new parents like me.”

While working towards a patent, the team is also applying for a grant to support prototyping. They are confident that the new diaper design will one day be a real market product.

Leijing ZHOU, a UNNC PhD candidate and Mohan LI, a designer from an industry partner also contributed to the diaper design.

Posted on 3 April 2019