Editor's Choice

Precise non-invasive monitoring of vital signs

30 August 2023 Editor's Choice News

Scientists at Sydney Nano and the School of Physics have developed a new photonic radar system that delivers contactless, high-definition detection of vital signs. This technology, still in its infancy, could be further developed for use in ICUs and aged-care facilities. It could also be used for people with sleep apnoea or for infants where there is a concern with breathing.

Constant monitoring of vital health signs is needed in a variety of clinical environments. At present, this is mostly achieved via wired or invasive contact systems. In certain cases, however, these contact systems are not suitable for application. Camera systems have also

been used to monitor vital signs, but these systems are sensitive to skin colour and lighting conditions. The thermal cameras deployed also have limited resolution.

Scientists at the University of Sydney Nano Institute and the NSW Smart Sensing Network have now developed a photonic radar system that allows for highly precise, non-invasive monitoring. The system was demonstrated by monitoring the pauses in breathing in cane toads where the system was able to accurately detect the change in breathing.

“Photonic radar uses a light-based, photonics system – rather than traditional electronics – to generate, collect and process the radar signals. This approach allows for very wideband generation of radio frequency (RF) signals, offering highly precise and simultaneous, multiple tracking of subjects,” said lead author Ziqian Zhang, a hD student in the School of Physics.

The system combined this approach with light detection and ranging (LiDAR). The radar generated 10 GHz-wide SF RF signals in the Ka-band (26,5 to 40 GHz) to detect the respiratory activities, achieving a range of 13,7 mm with micrometre-level accuracy. This high resolution and accuracy are essential to resolve the delicate vital signs of the cane toad, even with an undersized animal cross-section. The system then used a LiDAR vital sign detection monitoring based on the same microwave photonic source, showing that LiDAR and radar could be used together as a complementary system.

This hybrid approach, radar plus LiDAR, delivered a vital sign detection system with a resolution down to six millimetres with micrometre-level accuracy, which is suitable for clinical environments.

For more information visit www.nature.com

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