Scientists have created a low-cost medical sensor that can
be used to test blood oxygen levels without piercing the skin.
The device could be used and thrown away like a band aid. Future fitness trackers could soon add blood-oxygen levels
to the list of vital signs measured with new technology invented by engineers
at the University of California, Berkeley.
Ana Arias, an associate professor of electrical engineering
and computer sciences and head of the UC Berkeley team that is developing a new
organic optoelectronic sensor said that, "There are various pulse
oximeters that measure pulse rate and blood-oxygen saturation levels, but those
devices use rigid conventional electronics, and they are usually fixed to the
fingers or earlobe."
By switching from silicon to an organic, or carbon-based,
design, the scientists were able to develop a device that could ultimately be
flexible enough to be slapped on like a Band-Aid during that jog around the
track or hike up the hill.
The engineers put the new prototype up against a
conventional pulse oximeter and discovered that the pulse and oxygen readings
were just as accurate and the team reported its findings in the current edition
of the journal Nature Communications.
The sensor's active layers are deposited from solution-processed materials via
spincoating and printing techniques.
The all-organic optoelectronic oximeter sensor is interfaced with conventional
electronics and the acquired pulse rate and oxygenation are calibrated and
compared with a commercially available oximeter.
The scientists in the article mentioned that, "The organic sensor
accurately measures pulse rate and oxygenation with errors of 1 per cent and 2
per cent, respectively."