Sensors get flexible
Existing blood-oxygen sensors — known as oximeters — are known for being rigid and bulky, and they only work on thin parts of the body, like fingertips or earlobes. But a team led by Ana Claudia Arias, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, has now developed a flexible sensor that can be used over large areas of skin, tissue and organs, giving a new way to detect blood-oxygen levels throughout the body. The sensor’s organic electronics are printed on bendable plastic that molds to the shape of the body, allowing it to be placed anywhere. Consisting of an alternating array of organic light-emitting diodes and photodiodes, the sensor measures oxygenation in tissue by shining red and near-infrared light into the skin and then detecting the ratio of light that is reflected back. The researchers say the sensor could enable doctors to monitor wounds as they heal in real time, check the oxygenation of skin grafts and transplanted organs, or even constantly track blood oxygen levels in patients with diabetes, respiration illnesses or sleep apnea.