In this thesis, capacitive imaging systems are assessed for their suitability in skin research studies, as multi-purpose and portable laboratory equipment.
The water content of the human skin, the status of the skin barrier, its permeability by solvents, and the skin texture are crucial pieces of information in pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries for the development of skin treatment
products. Normally, multiple high-end scientific instruments with expensive dedicated analysis software are employed to measure the above skin properties. The aim of this work is to demonstrate how fingerprint sensors, originally designed for biometric security, can be exploited to achieve reliable skin hydration readings and analyse multiple other skin properties while maintaining low cost and portability.
To begin with, the anatomy of human skin is summarised alongside the functional properties of each skin layer. The skin hydration instruments study the outermost layer of skin and its appendages, so their thickness, biology, functions, hydration levels and water holding capabilities are presented in the literature review in order to understand the target measurands. Since capacitive imaging, rather than single sensor, probes are employed in this work, the skin texture and its importance in cosmetic science are also studied as a part of the target measurand. In order to understand how this technology fits in the current skin research instrument market, well established measurement apparatuses are presented. These include opto-thermal transient emission
radiometry and confocal Raman microspectroscopy for skin hydration and solvent permeation measurements as well as depth profiling. Then, electrical hygrometry and the dynamic vapour sortpion measurement principles are outlined, which focus on water diffusion and sorption measurements correspondingly. Since the skin texture will also be studied in this work, dermatoscopy is also summarised. A literature review on the non-invasive electrical-based measurement method is achieved, alongside the stratum corneum and viable
skin capacitance and conductance as functions of sampling frequency. The latter allows to establish the criteria for the suitability of electrical based apparatuses in skin hydration measurements. More specifically, it is concluded
that the measurement depth of the instrument should not be reaching viable skin and that the sampling frequency should be constant and below 100kHz for capacitive measurements. The presentation of existing electrical based skin hydration probes in the market demonstrates the current development
stage of this technology, and it enables the expression of the research aim and its objectives for this work.
In order to improve trust in the use of capacitive imaging technology for measuring skin hydration, apart from visualisation, established electrical based skin hydration probes are examined and compared with a capacitive imaging sensor. The criteria for this comparison derive from the literature review, i.e. the sampling frequency and the penetration depth of the electric field. The sampling frequency is measured directly on the hardware using
an oscilloscope, while the measurement depth is estimated using an electrostatic model. The development of this model for different sensor geometries is presented and it is evaluated against different models as well as experimental
results in the literature. It is concluded that low cost instruments tend to have high measurement depth that makes them unsuitable for stratum corneum hydration measurements. Higher end instruments, although they are using high
sampling frequency, have safe penetration depth but low measurement sensitivity. The capacitive imaging sensor shown acceptable penetration depth, on the high end of the expected range, and good measurement sensitivity due to the miniaturisation of the technology.
A common disadvantage of most of these instruments is that the readouts are provided in arbitrary units, so experimental results cannot be compared directly with the literature when different scientific equipment has been used. To overcome this disadvantage, and based on the previous analysis of capacitive measurement principle, a system calibration is proposed to convert system capacitance or arbitrary units to dielectric permittivity units, a property of the sample measurand. This allows the calculation of hydration and solvent percentage concentration within the sample and so direct comparison with a wider range of reported results in the literature. Furthermore, image analysis techniques are applied on the dielectric permittivity images to allow targeting and relocating skin regions of interest, as well as excluding pixels with bad sample contact that distort the results. Next, the measurement reliability of the capacitive imaging arrays is examined through in-vivo and in-vitro experiments as well as side-by-side comparative measurements with single sensor skin hydration probes. The advantages of the developed calibration method and image analysis tools are demonstrated via the introduction of new system applications in the skin research, including skin damage characterisation
via occlusion, skin solvent penetration and water desorption in hair samples experiments. It has to be mentioned that a small number of subjects is used in these experiments and the results are compared with the literature, so the statistical significance is not clearly examined. Next, advanced image processing techniques are adapted and applied on the capacitive skin images to expand further the application of this technology. More specifically, the skin micro-relief aspects of interest in cosmetic industry are summarised, and algorithmic approaches for measuring the micro-relief orientation and intensity as well as the automatic skin grids account are reviewed and experimentally evaluated.
The main research aim and its objective have been achieved, with their methodologies clearly presented the their implementations evaluated with experimental results. However, vulnerabilities of this technology have also been exposed and suggestions for further improvement are provided in the conclusions.