The paired sensors — one placed between the ninth and 10th ribs and the other...
The paired sensors — one placed between the ninth and 10th ribs and the other on the abdomen — track the rate and volume of the wearer’s respiration by measuring the local strain on the application areas.
Source: Josh Kim / UC

Wearable respiration monitor built with children’s toy

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have developed a wearable, disposable respiration monitor that provides high-fidelity readings on a continuous basis. It’s designed to help children with asthma and cystic fibrosis and others with chronic pulmonary conditions.

The inexpensively produced sensors were created by UCI biomedical engineers using the popular children’s toy Shrinky Dinks, thin sheets of plastic that are painted or drawn on and then shrunk with heat.

Placed in two positions – one between the ninth and 10th ribs and another on the abdomen – the Band-Aid-like devices track the rate and volume of the wearer’s respiration by measuring the local strain on the application areas. The information gleaned could, in the case of asthma, help warn of an oncoming attack. “The current standard of care in respiration monitoring is a pulmonary function test that’s often difficult to perform and limited in terms of the snapshot it provides of a patient’s respiratory health – meaning problems can sometimes be missed,” said Michael Chu, UCI graduate student researcher in biomedical engineering.“Our new stretch sensors allow users to walk around and go about their lives while vital information on the health of their lungs is being collected.”

Photo
Signals from the sensors, created using the popular children’s toy Shrinky Dinks, can be transmitted via Bluetooth to be displayed on a smartphone app.
Source: Josh Kim / UCI

The devices are made by applying a very thin layer of metal to a sheet of the plastic toy and then heat-shrinking it to cause corrugation. The film is then transferred to a soft, stretchy material – similar to small bandage – that can be adhered to a patient. Signals from embedded sensors can be transmitted via Bluetooth to be displayed on a smartphone app.

Michelle Khine, UCI professor of biomedical engineering, in whose lab the devices were developed, said she was inspired to pursue the innovation after the birth of her son nine months ago. Complications required the newborn to be confined to the neonatal intensive care unit hooked up to an array of machines supplying oxygen and monitoring his breathing. “Despite having his whole tiny body covered in sensors, all the hospital staff could get was respiration rate information. If you looked at the vitals monitor, you’d see this waveform, so it looked like they were getting [respiration volume] information, but they weren’t,” Khine said. “I felt so helpless with my child just lying in this box. I wasn’t allowed to carry him for eight days, so it was heartbreaking – but also frustrating to see all of these wires hooked up to him but not giving all the information we wanted.”

She said those days in the hospital following the birth of her son were strongly motivating to her as a biomedical engineer: “I sent some pictures of him all wired up to my students, and I said, ‘We have to be able to do better than this. This is 2018. It’s insane.’”

Khine’s lab is well-known for employing Shrinky Dinks as a platform for medical applications. About a decade ago, she innovated the use of the toy to produce microfluidic devices. “It’s amazing that this toy for kids has enabled us to create these robust sensors that may one day benefit children and others around the world,” she said.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related articles

Sticker detects cystic fibrosis in newborn's sweat

Sticker detects cystic fibrosis in newborn's sweat

Researchers have developed a novel skin-mounted sticker that absorbs sweat and then changes color to provide an accurate, easy-to-read diagnosis of cystic fibrosis within minutes.

Patches detect when a viral disease is getting worse

Patches detect when a viral disease is getting worse

Xsensio has been awarded CHF 1.8 million in EU funding to adapt its Lab-on-Skin sensing patches so that they can detect when a viral illness like the flu or COVID-19 is about to get worse.

Harvesting energy from radio waves to power wearables

Harvesting energy from radio waves to power wearables

Researchers have developed a way to harvest energy from radio waves to power wearable devices.

Wearable sensor tracks biochemical data

Wearable sensor tracks biochemical data

Scientist are developing a patch that monitors the sweat of high performance athletes for medical information.

Smartwatch turns into biochemical monitoring system

Smartwatch turns into biochemical monitoring system

Engineers have designed a thin adhesive film that could upgrade a consumer smartwatch into a powerful health monitoring system.

Smart wristband monitors heart rates and physical activity

Smart wristband monitors heart rates and physical activity

Engineers have created biosensor technology with a wireless connection to smartphones that will enable a new wave of personal health.

Hearables: How to make headphones intelligent

Hearables: How to make headphones intelligent

Engineers have invented a cheap and easy way by transforming headphones into sensors that can be plugged into smartphones to monitor users heart rates.

Wearable monitors jaundice-causing bilirubin in newborns

Wearable monitors jaundice-causing bilirubin in newborns

Researchers have developed the first wearable devices to precisely monitor jaundice, a yellowing of the skin caused by elevated bilirubin levels in the blood that can cause severe medical conditions in newborns.

Microfluidic chip simplifies COVID-19 testing

Microfluidic chip simplifies COVID-19 testing

COVID-19 can be diagnosed in 55 minutes or less with the help of programmed magnetic nanobeads and a diagnostic tool that plugs into an off-the-shelf cellphone.

Popular articles

Subscribe to Newsletter