New flexible wireless body sensors to help monitor premature babies

An interdisciplinary Northwestern University team has developed a pair of soft, flexible wireless body sensors that replaces the tangle of wire-based sensors that monitor babies in hospitals’ neonatal intensive care units and pose a barrier to parent-baby cuddling and physical bonding.

The work has been pioneered by John Rogers and a pediatrician Amy Paller.

Naked Scientist, Chris Smith says when you have premature babies that are as young as 25 weeks, they are so tiny and their skin is extremely delicate and they need an enormous amount of monitoring.

What John Rogers did was to come up with devices which are a thin film electronic devices. So the devices stick onto the baby's skin. You stick two of them in different locations and the micro electronics pickup energies from a coil which is placed under the baby's mattress and it beams the energy wireless.

Dr Chris Smith - The Naked Scientist

This device measures the temperature of the baby, heart rate, oxygen, level of the blood.

It then collects this information and wireless sends the data to a central station, which in this case is the nurse's station, where the medical team can keep an eye on how the baby is doing.

Dr Chris Smith - The Naked Scientist

While these wires ensure health and safety, they also constrain the baby’s movements and pose a major barrier to physical bonding.

Click below to listen to Chris answers listeners interesting science questions in the full interview:


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