A wearable, disposable respiration monitor provides high-fidelity readings on a continuous basis. It’s designed to help children with asthma and cystic fibrosis and others with chronic pulmonary conditions. The inexpensively produced sensors were created using the popular children’s toy Shrinky Dinks, thin sheets of plastic that are painted or drawn on and then shrunk with heat.
Placed in two positions — one between the ninth and 10th ribs and another on the abdomen — the Band-Aid-like devices track the rate and volume of the wearer’s respiration by measuring the local strain on the application areas. The information gleaned could, in the case of asthma, help warn of an oncoming attack.
The devices are made by applying a very thin layer of metal to a sheet of the plastic toy and then heat-shrinking it to cause corrugation. The film is then transferred to a soft, stretchy material — similar to small bandage — that can be adhered to a patient. Signals from embedded sensors can be transmitted via Bluetooth to be displayed on a smartphone app.
So far, researchers have tested the new technology on healthy subjects, but there are plans for a pilot trial with a small number of asthma sufferers in the coming months.