It feels more and more as if our technology can be a key asset in the pursuit of better health and wellness. This can go far beyond the sophisticated tools of hospitals and laboratories. Precision light measurement and fiber optics have a role to play here. As shown in recent research by Université Laval’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, the very things we wear may be used as tools for measuring our vitals.
Ingeniously outfitting a t-shirt with sensors, the team was able to create a device that monitors a wearer’s breath rate in true real-time. Completely non-invasive, the fiber-optic based device is a small antenna attached to the shirt at chest level that accurately reads a person’s breathing. Although it may be simple for the person being monitored, it is not a simple piece of technology; this hollow fiber optic was coated with a type of silver and polymer that allows it to accurately read the volume of air in the lungs as well as the contraction of the thorax.
The need for hyper-precision is clear, as the shirt is meant to be worn by those with asthma, sleep apnea, and pulmonary obstructive diseases. All are types of conditions that are not easily monitored even by the patient themselves. Use of the cutting-edge shirt for those with sleep apnea has obvious possible benefits, as the monitoring of breathing levels can be kept exact throughout the night.
The design concept is meant to take data from various points and collectively deliver it to a smartphone or tablet. The researchers at the optic center at the Université Laval had not even begun to make inroads on the ways in which an app could be designed and developed; their primary concern was the proper function of the fiber optic monitor. The success in this department looks promising; they reported being able to send the shirt through a full wash over 20 times with the unit still working as needed.
Precision light measurement is at the heart of much photonic-based technical innovation, and the smart shirt is no different. The fiber optic coating must be precise and the materials must be durable for readings to reach a level of use. Gooch & Housego is a field leader in the testing of such standards. For more information on our products and services, contact us anytime at 407-422-3171. Keep up to date on the latest photonics news by following our social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.