Compared to existing diapers, this new design does not only visually signal babies’ urine but also stool, even in darkness. This diaper design features a seamless pattern of fireflies with stars, 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.
Star elements are coated with ink and chlorophyll fluorescent paint. In darkness, the star glows when the diaper is wet, as the ink gets washed away, revealing the chlorophyll fluorescent paint underneath. Parents can then take a closer look at the transparent windows to see if their newborns have had a bowel movement, without turning the lights on.
Extracted from seaweed, the chlorophyll fluorescent paint is safe and gentle on an infant's sensitive skin, says the design team.
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 says. “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. There are hopes that the new diaper design will one day be a real market product.