Researchers at Tyndall National Institute, UCC, Cork, have developed a microchip sensor that can detect a person's respiratory rate without any contact with the person under observation. The chip allows for constant monitoring of babies in cot beds, hospital patients and other people at risk of obstructive apneas including, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It can be used also for the early detection of sudden sleep of vehicle drivers.
The sensor technology also enables several other important applications such as facilitating patients in being monitored in their home, with data sent in real-time to GPs and first-aid medical staff in hospitals. It can also be used for fitness (fatigue) monitoring and personalised healthcare for independent and healthy living. In spite of its applications to the biomedical field, the microchip sensor can be applied to other civil applications requiring contactless detection of moving objects.
The sensor microchip consists of ultra-wide-band pulse radar, capable of detecting sub-centimeter movements. The radar sends very short pulses towards the chest and detects the echo reflected in proximity of the skin. The output signal provided by the sensor is therefore sensitive to the chest movement. This is the first time that such an ultra-wide-band pulse radar has been integrated into a single silicon chip. The devices also operate in accordance with the most stringent worldwide standard regulations for medical devices.
Speaking about the breakthrough development, Dr Domenico Zito, leader of the research team focused on the design of single-chip transceivers for emerging wireless technologies at Tyndall National Institute and Lecturer in Microelectronic Engineering at University College Cork , said: "This microchip is the result of a dedicated and highly-skilled research team at Tyndall National Institute which have been developing this microchip for a considerable time within a fruitful cooperation with the research group in Bioengineering led by Prof. Danilo De Rossi at the University of Pisa, Italy. We recently presented our work to the prestigious IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference 2011 in San Francisco, the world-wide top conference in microelectronic design both for industry and academia. We believe that this microchip has the potential to make a profound impact on monitoring the respiratory diseases, as well as the number of deaths resulting from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or accidents arising from driver fatigue. The microchip gives doctors access to extensive data recorded over long observation intervals, which will allow them to understand more about pathologies and their manifestations."
The research carried out by Tyndall National Institute in developing this microchip was funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technologies and the European Commission.
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