Wireless Health Monitor

A wireless, wearable monitor built with stretchable electronics could allow comfortable, long-term health monitoring of adults, babies and small children without concern for skin injury or allergic reactions cause by conventional adhesive sensors with conductive gels. The soft and conformable monitor can broadcast electrocardiogram (ECG), heart rate, respiratory rate and motion activity data as much as 15 meters to a portable recording device such as a smartphone or tablet computer.

Wireless health monitor

Details of the monitor were reported July 24 in the journal Advanced Science. The research was support by the Imlay Innovation Fund at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, NextFlex (Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Institute); also by a seed grant from the Institute for Electronics and Nano technology at Georgia Tech. The monitor has study on both animal models and humans.

Because the device conforms to the skin, it avoids signal issues that can be create by the motion of the typical metal-gel electrodes across the skin. The device can even obtain accurate signals; also from a person who is walking, running or climbing stairs. “When you put a conventional electrode on the chest; so movement from sitting up or walking creates motion artifacts that are challenging to separate from the signals you want to measure,” he said.

“Because our device is soft and conformal, it moves with the skin; also provides information that cannot be seen with the motion artifacts of conventional sensors.” Continuous evaluation with a wireless health monitor could improve; so the assessment of children and help clinicians identify trends earlier, potentially facilitating intervention before a condition progresses, said Dr. Kevin Maher, a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Plastic Circuit Board

The monitor uses three gold electrodes embed in the film; so that also contains the electronic processing equipment. The entire health monitor is just three inches in diameter, and a more advance version under development will be half that size. The wireless monitor is now powered by a small rechargeable battery; but future versions may replace the battery with an external radio frequency charging system.

Fabrication of the monitor’s circuitry uses thin-film; mesh-like patterns of copper that can flex with the soft substrate. The chips are the only part not flexible; but they are mount on the strain isolate soft substrate instead of a traditional plastic circuit board. As next steps, Yeo plans to reduce the size of the device; also add features to measure other health relate parameters such as temperature, blood oxygen and blood pressure. A major milestone; will be a clinical trial to evaluate performance against conventional health monitors.

For Yeo, who specializes in nano and micro engineering; so the prospect of seeing the device in clinical trials and ultimately use in children’s hospitals is a powerful incentive. “It will be a dream come true for me to see something we have develop be helpful to someone who is suffering,” he said. “They all want to see developments in science and engineering translate into improve patient care.”