To treat newborns for treat, the babies lie in incubators. Irradiation with blue light in an incubator is necessary because toxic decomposition products of the blood pigment hemoglobin are deposited in the skin in newborns with jaundice. Researchers have significantly improved the not-so-child-friendly procedure by combining the treatment with the needs of the newborns.
To do this, the material researchers created textiles with optically conductive fibers woven into them. Battery-operated LEDs serve as a light source for the light-conducting threads. Together with conventional thread, the optical fibers are woven into a satin material that distributes the light supply evenly throughout the fabric.
With a diameter of around 160 µm, the dimensions of the optical fibers match that of regular threads. The team determined the appropriate angle at which the threads must be bent during weaving so that the blue light stays in the therapeutic wavelength range of around 470 nm but is emitted onto the baby’s skin, rather than staying in the fabric. The best result was achieved in a weaving process with a so-called 6/6 bond, which produces a satin cloth. Here, the optical threads have particularly few cross points with the traditional thread and are bent in an ideal way so the light is emitted uniformly over the skin.
The photonic textiles woven in this manner can be made into a romper or a sleeping bag so the little patient is clothed, and can be held and fed. And because the pajamas can be produced for commercial use so they only radiate light inward, onto the baby’s skin, it is no longer necessary for the newborn to wear an annoying protective mask.