University Researchers Develop a Low Power Sensor to Monitor COVID-19
Engineers at the University of California San Diego work together to develop an energy-efficient, low-cost wearable to monitor COVID-19 infected patients.
Being able to monitor the disease progression of COVID-19 affected patients while in quarantine at home is essential in being able to ascertain when critical care is needed in a hospital setting. It is also important for individuals to be able to receive accurate and rapid testing to confirm suspected infections so that the right course of action can be taken before symptoms escalate.
At the University of California San Diego (UCSD), researchers are working on a wearable, low-cost, low-power sensor design that can be used to effectively monitor patients with COVID-19. Professor Patrick Mercier of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UCSD is leading the research and receives funding support through a Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant from the National Science Foundation.
UCSD’s proposed sensor would connect to electrodes and a small electric board. Image used courtesy of UCSD
UCSD's new sensor technology is being designed to measure the temperature of an individual and their respiration in real-time. These are both key indicators for defining the level of COVID-19 infection. Change in respiratory rate (RR) is known to change automatically in response to physiological demand and particularly as COVID-19 affects lung function, RR is an essential indicator for disease progression and status of patient health. A change in just as little as three to five breaths per minute (bpm) may indicate a change in a patient’s condition.
A New Way to Measure Patient Respiration
Usually, sensors used to measure temperature and respiration are quite large and energy-demanding. Additionally, current devices typically require a person to manually breathe into them in order to acquire readings. Mercier and his team are endeavoring to create a sensor that can measure respiration in people with COVID-19 or those suspected of infection without the need for people to breathe into the device. This will allow continuous, un-aided, real-time monitoring of symptoms.
A Near-Zero Power Sensor
Mercier and his team of researchers are well known for their development of ultra-low-power sensors. One temperature sensor developed by the team only ran on a minuscule 100 picowatts, which is not much more than that required by a basic digital watch. Due to the low power required, it is not necessary to include a battery in the sensor design.
Low-power temperature sensor that runs on 113 picowatts of power. Image used courtesy of UCSD
Mercier’s group intends to utilize other sources to power the sensor such as custom Bluetooth, WiFi, magnetic fields, and wake-up radios. The UCSD team believes that this is a truly innovative idea that will likely foster the development of new classes of energy-saving, low-power wearables.
Wireless transmission of sensor data and analysis. Image used courtesy of UCSD
The chip and sensor are being designed so that temperature and respiration data can be transmitted to a smartwatch or smartphone. It is hoped that the data collected may be used to display local and national infection rate.