During a stroll, a woman’s breathing becomes a slight bit shallower, and a monitor in her clothing alerts her to get a telemedicine check-up. A new study details how a sensor chip smaller than a ladybug records multiple lung and heart signals along with body movements and could enable such a future socially distanced health monitor.
The core mechanism of the chip developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology involves two finely manufactured layers of silicon, which overlay each other separated by the space of 270 nanometers – about 0.000001 inches. They carry a minute voltage.
Vibrations from bodily motions and sounds put part of the chip in very slight motion, making the voltage flux, thus creating readable electronic outputs. In human testing, the chip has recorded a variety of signals from the mechanical workings of the lungs and the heart with clarity, signals that often escape meaningful detection by current medical technology.
“Right now, medicine looks to EKGs (electrocardiograms) for information on the heart, but EKGs only measure electrical impulses. The heart is a mechanical system with muscles pumping and valves opening and shutting, and it sends out a signature of sounds and motions, which an EKG does not detect. EKGs also say nothing about lung function,” said Farrokh Ayazi, Ken Byers Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Source: “Lung-Heart Super Sensor on a Chip Tinier Than a Ladybug”, Ben Brumfield, Georgia Institute of Technology