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A heart monitor smaller than a stamp

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 8:32 AM EDT
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Doctors can manually take your pulse and use other technology to measure the rhythm of your heart. Now a cutting-edge monitor that’s smaller and thinner than a postage stamp is about to give doctors another option for monitoring your heart health.

A strong steady heartbeat is one sign of good health. But an electrocardiogram, or EKG, requires patches and wires to produce a reading. Scientists at Purdue University have developed a wearable triboelectric nanogenerator, or TENG, a tiny monitor made out of polyvinyl alcohol. It looks and feels like a small square of flexible plastic.

“We can easily attach it on to any part of the body because the material itself is very soft. It’s also very thin. It’s just like the tissue from your top skin,” explained Wenzhuo Wu, PhD, Ravi and Eleanor Talwar Rising Star assistant professor from the School of Industrial Engineering at Purdue University.

When the TENG is placed at a pulse point like the wrist, it can pick up and transmit cardiovascular information, like this … think of it like a doctor taking your pulse.

“We use the finger to feel the vibration. We use the device to measure, precisely, the vibration and we analyze the data,” illustrated Wu.

Professor Wu says the monitor may help doctors detect common cardiovascular diseases, like coronary artery disease and ischemic heart disease.

The monitor also uses static electricity to self-power, meaning it does not need a battery or electrical charge to operate. Professor Wu says his team has filed a patent for commercial development.

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