Electrical engineers at Oregon State University have developed new technology to monitor medical vital signs with sophisticated sensors so small and cheap they can fit into a bandage and be manufactured in high volumes. The new system-on-a-chip cuts the size, weight, power consumption, by ten times. What enables the small size is that the system doesn’t use a battery. It is able to harvest sparse radio-frequency energy from a nearby device such as a cell phone.
Some of the existing technologies that would compete with this system, such as pedometers currently in use that measure physical activity, cost $100 or more. The new system by comparison is about the size and thickness of a postage stamp and can easily be taped over the heart or at other body locations to measure vital signs.
A patent is being processed for the monitoring system and the system is now ready for clinical trials, researchers say. When commercialized it could be used as a disposable electronic sensor, with many potential applications due to its powerful performance, small size, and low cost.
The system can be used to monitor hearts since the system can gather data on some components of an EKG, such as pulse rate and atrial fibrillation. The system has the ability to measure EEG brain signals so it could be used to provide nursing care for patients with dementia, be used to record physical activity to help improve weight loss, used to measure perspiration and temperature to provide data on infections, and to provide data on the onset of diseases.
The research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Catalyst Foundation.