Peek into the hospital’s baby ICU, and you’ll see sick and premature newborns covered in wired monitors that tear at fragile skin and make it hard for parents to snuggle their kids but now new sensors monitor sick preemies without wires.
Now researchers have created tiny skin-like wireless sensors that may finally cut those cords. Rogers’ team developed ultrathin sensors made of flexible silicone that moves like skin and clings without any strong adhesive.
The researchers then embedded the sensors with spring-like electronics that flex as the body moves, and are waterproof, made with materials that unlike today’s NICU monitors don’t interfere with X-rays or MRI scans.
Key to it being lightweight, they don’t need batteries. Under the crib mattress sits a transmitter that wirelessly charges the sensors much like some smartphone chargers while simultaneously relaying all the sensors’ measurements to hospital computers.
Replacing today’s multiple monitors takes just two wireless sensor one made for the chest or back, and one to wrap around a foot that work together.
For example, the upper sensor measures heart activity, while the foot sensor uses light to measure blood oxygen levels. How long it takes a heartbeat’s pulse to reach the foot corresponds to blood pressure, Rogers explained no bruising blood pressure cuff required.
The technology “has great potential impact on monitoring practices all over the world and may give many neonates a more equitable opportunity to survive,” Dr Ruth Guinsburg of the Federal University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.