Researchers developed a wearable, disposable respiration monitor that 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 paired sensors — one placed between the ninth and tenth ribs and the other on the abdomen — track the rate and volume of the wearer's respiration by measuring the local strain on the application areas. (Credit: Josh Kim/UCI)

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 tenth ribs and another on the abdomen — the 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 current standard of care in respiration monitoring is a pulmonary function test that's often difficult to perform and limited in terms of the snapshot it provides of a patient's respiratory health; problems can sometimes be missed. The new stretch sensors allow users to walk around and go about their lives while vital information on the health of their lungs is being collected.

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 a 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.

For more information, contact Brian Bell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 949-824-8249.

Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the August, 2019 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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