Researchers develop paper-thin heart monitor

The technology could be used to check the vital signs for a newborn


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Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University, said he has developed a wearable heart monitor that is thinner than a dollar bill and no bigger than a stamp.

Bao and his team of engineers combined layers of flexible materials and pressure sensors to create the skin-like heart monitor. They claim that the device could be used to track heart health and give doctors a new alternative to check the vital signs for a newborn and high-risk surgery patients.

 Another application could be related with artificial skin. An artificial sense of touch could be generated by using many of these sensors on a prosthetic limb. “The pulse is related to the condition of the artery and the condition of the heart,” Bao explained. “The better the sensor, the better doctors can catch problems before they develop.”

To create the small and sensitive technology, Bao's team used a thin middle layer of rubber covered with tiny pyramid bumps. When pressure is put on the device, the pyramids deform slightly.

A heartbeat is comprised of 2 distinct peaks, but the device is so sensitive that it can detect more than two. "You can use the ratio of the two peaks to determine the stiffness of the artery, for example. If there is a change in the heart's condition, the wave pattern will change," researcher Gregor Schwartz explained.

The team is now working to make the device completely wireless, which would allow doctors to receive a patient’s minute-by-minute heart status through a smartphone and from anywhere.

“For some patients with a potential heart disease , wearing a bandage would allow them to constantly measure their heart’s condition,” Bao said. “This could be done without interfering with their daily life at all, since it really just requires wearing a small bandage.”

If you want to know how the skin-like heart monitor works, check the video below:

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