February 2021

Biomedical Engineers Develop Smart Sensor Bandages

Smart bandage being printed. Photograph by Michael Pierce, Missouri S&T.

Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology (S&T) are working to create an affordable, user-friendly oxygen-sensing patch printed on a flexible, disposable bandage that can interact with a smartphone. This smart bandage could enable remote monitoring for the early detection of problematic conditions, such as pressure ulcers and diabetic foot ulcers, allowing for immediate treatment or intervention, thus potentially minimizing the length of hospital stays and saving millions of dollars in wound care costs annually.

“Our current work focuses on designing and optimizing a tissue oxygen sensor by using inexpensive inkjet printing techniques,” said Chang-Soo Kim, PhD, professor of electrical and computer engineering at S&T. “Concurrently, we are developing a smartphone app that can interpret sensor images. This prototype will be evaluated using phantom tissue that mimics a pressure ulcer site.” The hurdles that the team are working to overcome include producing a low-cost smart bandage consisting of materials totaling less than a dollar and optimizing a printable ink composition for the bandage.

Generally, ulcer injuries must be assessed manually and evaluated by medical personnel. But a smart dressing could sense the impaired blood circulation and poor oxygenation around the at-risk skin region. “Our optical sensor bandage functions by detecting a low skin oxygen level caused by compromised circulation,” said Kim. “This low oxygen produces a color change called luminescence intensity. The smartphone can then take a photograph of the dressing and transmit it to enable remote monitoring or encourage timely intervention before major skin decomposition occurs.”

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