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 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.