SINGAPORE - Local scientists have developed an integrated monitoring system that can be easily attached to any face mask in order to monitor the wearer for health indicators associated with Covid-19.
Sensors pick up skin temperature, blood oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and heart rate - all of which are parameters associated with coronaviruses.
Professor Loh Xian Jun, who is one of the scientists behind the invention, told The Straits Times on Thursday (Sept 10) that the inspiration for the system came around the circuit breaker period.
"We saw that when Covid-19 patients were in isolation wards, the front-line workers had to go in and take temperature readings and blood oxygen saturation every 30 minutes or so to monitor their vital signs," said Prof Loh, who is an executive director at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*Star) Institute of Materials Research and Engineering.
"This also coincided with the time when we saw findings that the virus was present in various parts of the hospitals... So we were wondering if there was a way to help our front-line workers and to reduce the risk that they face," he added.
He said nurses also have to drag big and bulky equipment from room to room while carrying out such monitoring, which is not only inconvenient but also increases the risk of spreading the virus.
In hospitals, such "smart masks" could be given to Covid-19 patients, allowing staff to monitor their vital signs remotely, reducing the risk of infection for front-line workers.
Together with Prof Chen Xiaodong from the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Nanyang Technological University, and a team of fellow scientists, Prof Loh produced a series of sensors.
But placing the thumb-sized sensors on the inside of a mask would be uncomfortable for the wearer, so the team integrated them into an artificial skin-like substrate.
Prof Chen said a later version of the system, which integrates all three sensors into one chip, is currently being tested.
They also added a Bluetooth device, allowing real-time data to be transmitted to a smartphone.
The substrate is made from a polymer material similar to the one used in superballs, a toy popular with children for its ability to bounce up high.
By integrating the chip into the elastic material, it allows the wearer to feel more comfortable and also increases the sensitivity of the chip. Read more
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