Sunday, April 25, 2010

New Sensors Being Developed

Real-time monitoring of the physiological state of pilots flying high performance tactical aircraft would help to prevent aviation mishaps due to gravity induced loss of consciousness. The military is looking for compact, reliable, and rugged sensor technologies to monitor the neurophysiological response of the brain of pilots working in stressful operational environments.

Srico, Inc., a Columbus-based photonics company has developed innovative optical sensors called Photrodes ™ to use for electrocardiogram and electroencephalogram monitoring. The key operational component of the sensor device is a miniature specially designed optical chip. While electronic chips use electrical current (electrons), optical chips use light (photons) for measurement and transmission of signals.

To help develop the monitoring device for pilots in the cockpit, Srico was awarded a Phase 1 SBIR contract from the Navy’s Office of Naval Research to specifically develop a neurophysiological optical sensor suite to use for Gravity-Induced Loss of Consciousness (GLOC) monitoring intervention.

The sensing system would be suitable for integration with tactical aircraft cockpit and control systems to provide a reliable means to rapidly detect the onset of GLOC, provide alert alarm functions, and activate an autopilot recovery mechanism.

Current electroencephalogram monitoring is accomplished through electrode-based instrumentation systems requiring adhesives or conductive gel. Srico’s patented optical Photrode ™ technology offers a new approach for monitoring the physiological conditions of military pilots and other combat personnel in a reliable convenient and non intrusive way. Srico’s optical sensing system will be able to monitor the pilots while they are flying without using adhesives or conductive gels.

The Photrodes eliminate the need for troublesome electrode attachments. For example, a set of simple dry-scalp-contact Photrodes could be placed in the helmet of an aviator and could potentially be used to routinely monitor EEG in military scenarios.

Srico’s product under development will have significant commercial potential outside the military for anesthesia awareness monitoring, critical care monitoring, alertness monitoring in the transportation industry, sleep medicine, and perhaps for other neuro-monitoring applications.

The use of Photrodes also has the potential to open the door to new brain and heart research, neurodiagnostics, and cardiodiagnostics. In addition, the sensors could be used at a mass trauma scene to measure heart rate (EKG) where a small sensor could be placed over the person’s clothing to enable emergency medical personnel to make a quick patient assessment.

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