Tag Archives: health

Researchers Of RMIT University Develops Swalloable Gas Sensors That Can Improve Your Diet

Researchers led by Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh, at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia have developed the first intestinal gas-diagnosing pill to be tested in human. During the study, which was published on January 8 in Nature Electronics, the swallowable gas sensors were tested in seven healthy participants who ate low and high-fiber diets.

Swallowable gas sensors can improve your diet
Swallowable gas sensors can improve your diet

This ‘smart’ capsule is capable of measuring levels of Oxygen, Hydrogen, and Carbon dioxide as it travels through the intestines of human beings. It sends the data in real-time to a device like a smartphone. This electronic pill can shape custom diets for optimal stomach health. Also, it can help doctors to distinguish between the early signs of different Gastrointestinal disorders, such as malabsorption syndrome, Crohn’s disease, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and even colon cancer.

On its surface, the gas capsule looks like a swallowable capsule with the outer most layer made of polyethylene. But within its inch-long shell, there are two gas sensors, a temperature sensor, a microcontroller, a radio-frequency transmitter, and button-sized silver-oxide batteries. The gas sensors are sealed within a specialized membrane that allows gas in but completely keeps stomach acid and digestive juices out.

It determines gas profiles in the stomach by controlling the heating elements of the sensors. Since oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide all have heat conductivity, the sensors can accurately determine the levels of these gases by taking measurements at multiple temperature points.

The levels of oxygen-containing molecules picked up by the sensors told the researchers where the pill was located within the stomach. That’s because Oxygen concentrations drop over the journey of the 30-foot long digestive tract. The stomach is very oxygen-rich while the colon is nearly anaerobic. Kalantar-Zadeh and his team confirmed the accuracy of this results by imaging the pills directly with ultrasound.

Using an algorithm, the information coming from the sensors is processed and then the signal is relayed in real-time to a small receiver that has a range of up to 100 feet. The receiver can store or transmit the data via Bluetooth to a smartphone, which can post the data online for easy monitoring by users and doctors.

This trial not only revealed the safety and effectiveness of a swallowable sensor — it revealed something remarkable about the stomach itself as well.

Micro-spectrometer Sensor Will Let You Check Air Quality Or Blood Sugar – Using Smartphone

Now you can use your smartphone to check how clean the air is, measure the freshness of food or even the level of your blood sugar. This has never been so easy. All credit goes to the new spectrometer sensor which is developed at the Eindhoven University of Technology and can be easily attached to a mobile phone. The little sensor is just as precise as the normal tabletop models used in scientific labs. The researchers published their invention on 20th December in the popular journal Nature Communications.

The blue perforated slab is the upper membrane, with the photonic crystal cavity in the middle
Spectrometer sensor construction: The blue perforated slab is the upper membrane, with the photonic crystal cavity in the middle

Spectrometry is the analysis of the light spectrum. It has an enormous range of applications. Every organic and inorganic substance has its own unique ‘footprint‘ in terms of light absorption and reflection. Thus it can be recognized by spectrometry. But precise spectrometers are bulky and costly since they split up the light into different colors (frequencies), which are then measured separately.

The intelligent sensor developed by Eindhoven researchers is able to make such accurate measurements in an entirely different way. It uses a special photonic crystal cavity that acts as a ‘trap’ of just a few micrometers into which the light falls and cannot escape. This trap is situated in a membrane. In the membrane, the captured light generates a tiny electrical current which can be measured accurately. The accurate working cavity design is made by Žarko Zobenica, a doctoral candidate.

The sensor can measure only a narrow range of light frequencies. To increase the frequency range, the researchers placed two of these membranes above each other closely. The two membranes affect each other. Changing the separation gap between them by a tiny amount also changes the light frequency that the sensor recognizes. To understand this the researchers, supervised by professor Andrea Fiore and associate professor Rob van der Heijden, included a MEMS or micro-electromechanical system.

This mechanism can change the measured frequency by changing the separation between the membranes. In this way, the sensor is able to cover a range of about thirty nanometers. Within which the spectrometer can recognize some hundred thousand frequencies with an exceptional precision. The research team demonstrated several applications like an extremely precise motion sensor and a gas sensor. All made possible by the clever use of the tiny membranes.

As per Professor Fiore‘s expectations, it will take another five years or more before the new spectrometer actually gets into a Smartphone. The main difficulty at this moment is the frequency range covered is still too small. It covers only a few percent of the most common spectrum, the near-infrared.

Given the huge potential and the wide field of applications, micro-spectrometers can become just as important as the camera in the smartphones of future.

MediaTek Sensio, is a 6-in-1 biosensor module for smartphones

Smartphones in recent times have contributed to the growth of the medical sensing industries with a major success in the usage of a smartphone camera and flash to detect heart rate. Specialized Apps installed on the phone can use the phone inbuilt camera and flash to read an individual heart rate with high accuracy but nothing else in the space of health monitoring. Sensio is a biosensor that will allow smartphones to track six different health metrics, a big game changer in the smartphone and medical industry.

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The Taiwan-based mobile chipset maker MediaTek has recently introduced MediaTek Sensio, the Industry’s first 6-in-1 biosensor that will turn smartphones into a personal health companion. Sensio will come as an embedded module for smartphones which make it possible to easily check and monitor one’s physical wellness.

The MediaTek Sensio MT6381 will allow smartphones to track a user’s heart rate, blood-pressure, heart-rate variability, peripheral capillary oxygen saturation, ECG (Electrocardiography) and photoplethysmography (PPG). It works using an integration of hardware and software in order to measure all these health data in about 60 seconds, as claimed by MediaTek. The company will have an app that can track all of this data and have it accessible to the user and also stored in the cloud.

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The MediaTek Sensio module uses a combination of LEDs (light emitting diodes) and a light-sensitive sensor to measure the variations in red and infrared light from the user’s fingertips. The module is able to measure the ECG and PPG levels by creating a closed loop between the user’s heart and the biosensor which is made possible when the user touches the electrical sensors and electrodes on the device.

The following are the features of the MediaTek Sensio:

  • Heart Rate – Measures heart beats per minute.
  • Heart Rate Variability – Measures variation in the time between heartbeats.
  • Blood Pressure Trends – Measures blood pressure trends to help users see data over a period of time.
  • Peripheral Oxygen Saturation (SpO2) – Measures the amount of oxygen in the blood.
  • Electrocardiography (ECG) – Measures the electrical activity of the heart over a period of time and displays it in graph form.
  • Photoplethysmography (PPG) – Measures the change in volume of blood.

The MediaTek Sensio module includes the following:

  • Integrated R and IR LEDs for reflective PPG measurement + 1 -channel ECG analog front -end.
  • Compact 6.8 mm x 4.93 mm x 1.2 mm OLGA 22-pin package.
  • Total External BOM: 4caps + 2 electrodes
  • I2C / SPI digital interface.

“Giving people the power to access their health information with a smartphone is a major step in making the world a healthier place,” said Dr Yenchi Lee, Sr. Director of Product Marketing for MediaTek’s wireless business. The MediaTek Sensio is expected to be available beginning in early 2018.

Scientists Design A Two Stage Patch For Blood Glucose Testing Without Pricking The Skin

A team of researchers from Tsinghua University in cooperation with People’s Liberation Army Air Force General Hospital, China, has produced a two-stage patch to test the blood glucose levels. They published their research paper on the open access site Science Advances. In the paper, the group describes their patch system and how it succeeds in a small sample test with volunteer human patients.

Biosensor attached to the skin for measuring blood glucose level
Biosensor attached to the skin for measuring blood glucose level

In this new effort, the researchers of Tsinghua University sought to make life a little easier for people living with diabetes by developing an easier way to test their glucose levels. Now they can easily monitor their own blood glucose level and maintain their diet accordingly.

For most diabetics, the conventional method was to check their glucose levels by using a small device that pricks the skin just enough to draw a very tiny amount of blood, usually from a fingertip. A drop of blood is then squeezed onto a test strip inserted into a glucose monitoring device, which then shows a reading. This painful and prone to infection process often causes many diabetics to stop testing their blood glucose level, hence putting themselves at higher risk.

Schematic diagram of non-invasive blood glucose moniroring
Schematic diagram of non-invasive blood glucose monitoring

In this new procedure, the researchers introduced a two-stage, non-invasive method to accomplish the same result. The first stage consists of placing a small amount of Hyaluronic acid, a component frequently found in skincare products, on the skin and then pressing a paper battery on the same area. The battery pushes the acid to make its way into the skin. Then the acid induces a change in osmotic pressure in the subcutaneous fluid. That forces glucose back upwards toward the outer surface of the skin. After 20 minutes, the battery is removed and the second stage takes place. A 3μm thick, five-layer biosensor is attached to the same place of the skin. It looks like a Band-Aid with a square of gold foil on its center. The biosensor can be read by standard lab equipment.

A clinical trial of their device on a woman with diabetes and two other non-diabetic patients at the hospital showed that results were nearly as good as standard lab equipment without causing any discomfort to the volunteers. In the following video, the researchers explain how it works:

iEAT – A Powerful Keychain Detector To Detect Food Allergens

For kids and adults with food allergies, having meals from restaurants or hotels can sometimes be very risky. Even when ultimate care is taken, freshly prepared meals can accidentally become cross-contaminated with an offending food and trigger an allergic reaction. Every year many people end up in the emergency room due to food allergies. Researchers of the Harvard Medical School developed an affordable device called iEAT for detecting allergens, which can reduce the anxiety of the people prone to allergies.

iEAT - A Portable allergen-detection system
iEAT – A Portable allergen-detection system

Conventional methods to detect the hidden allergens require massive laboratory equipment. They are slow and also do not work on a low concentration of allergens. Ralph Weissleder, Hakho Lee, and their colleagues at the Harvard Medical School wanted to make a more practical, consumer-friendly alternative. They reported in the journal ACS Nano the development of a new portable allergen-detection system that features a keychain analyzer for detecting allergens in food anywhere, anytime.

The portable allergen-detection system called integrated exogenous antigen testing or iEAT is small enough to fit in your pocket and it costs $40 only. The iEAT consists of a handheld device to extract allergens from food and an electronic keychain reader for sensing allergens. Then, the result is wirelessly sent to a smartphone. The prototype is able to detect five allergens within 10 minutes, one each from wheat, peanuts, hazelnuts, milk, and egg whites, even if they are in very low concentration.

The main device uses a disposable sample collector which is inserted into the small-sized main unit. The device is so sensitive that the scientists were able to detect gluten in foods advertised as being “gluten-free”. For example, the device detected gluten in salad and an egg protein in beer. Although the prototype was primarily designed to sense five allergens only, the researchers say the device could be expanded to test for many additional compounds, including other allergens and non-food contaminants such as pesticides.

A $20 Heart Rate Module For Health-Tech Projects

Heart rate monitoring is a common procedure for most of health related projects. Therefore, producing sensors modules and circuit boards for such tasks will facilitate and push forward the development of new health-tech projects.

Maxim Integrated, an analog and mixed-signal integrated circuits manufacturer, has developed a new module for measuring heart rate and pulse oximetry. It’s called “MAXREFDES117#”, derived from Maxim Reference Design, and it is a small board which is compatible with Arduino and Mbed boards, enabling a wide range of possibilities for developers.


MAXREFDES117# can be powered by 2 to 5.5 volts. It is a photoplethysmography (PPG)-based system that uses optical method for detecting heart rate and SpO2. It consists of three main parts:

1. MAX30102, a high sensitivity heart rate and pulse oximetry sensor. It is used with integrated red and IR LEDs for heart rate and pulse oximetry monitoring.

2. MAX1921, a low-power step-down digital-to-digital converter. It generates 1.8 V from input to supply the sensor.

3. MAX14595, a high speed logic-level translator. It works as an interface between the sensor and the connected developing board.

MAXREFDES117 Block Diagram
MAXREFDES117 Block Diagram

The board size is only 0.5” x 0.5” (12.7mm x 12.7mm) and has low power consumption that make it suitable for wearable applications. Thus, it can be placed on a finger, an earlobe, or other fleshy extremity.

MAXREFDES117# uses open-source heart-rate and SpO2 algorithm in its firmware. It also can be used with any controller having I2C interface. But the available firmware had been tested only on 6 different development boards, three of them are Arduinos (Adafruit Flora, Lilypad USB, and Arduino UNO), and the others are mbed boards (Maxim Integrated MAX32600MBED#, Freescale FRDM-K64F, and Freescale FRDM-KL25Z).

The MAXREFDES117# Firmware Flowchart
The MAXREFDES117# Firmware Flowchart

Accuracy of data collected by MAXREFDES117# depends on the used platform. According to the results with tested boards, Arduino boards give less accuracy than mbed ones because of theirs smaller SRAM size.

MAXREFDES117# is available for $20, it can be ordered online through the website.
More detailed information and quick start guide are presented here. In addition, all of the source files including schematic, PCB, BOM, and firmware are open and can be reached at the official product page.

Sensor Technology for Health and Fitness Applications


By Jon Gabay @ digikey.com:

Determining the state of our health has always been a matter of finding a way to monitor and measure the body’s most basic functions. Before instrumentation, visual indicators were used that allowed us to know, for example, what our body temperature should be, what a healthy pulse is, and what an acceptable respiration rate is.

Today, with an aging population more people now need some sort of portable health monitoring, which could take the form of devices that, among other things, dispense medication at regular intervals, stimulate the heart, or measure blood sugar levels and inject insulin. This article looks at medical- and fitness-sensor technology—contacted and contact-less, placed on the skin, subcutaneous, or internal—that now or soon will be available to design engineers. All parts, tools, and data referenced here can be found on the Digi-Key website.

Sensor Technology for Health and Fitness Applications – [Link]