MONTREAL – Researchers at Université Laval’s Center for Optics, Photonics and Laser (COPL) have created an intelligent garment that allows the user to measure the respiratory rate of the wearer remotely and in real time. This breakthrough, published in the journal Sensors , paves the way for the manufacture of clothing that could be used to diagnose certain respiratory diseases or to monitor people whose respiratory functions are abnormal. “People with asthma, sleep apnea or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as newborns, could benefit from this advance,” said the team leader who carried out this innovation, Younès Messaddeq.
The heart of this intelligent textile is an antenna attached to the garment at the chest. It is made of a hollow optical fiber whose inner wall is covered with a thin layer of silver. A polymer deposited on the outer layer of the fiber ensures the protection of the assembly. “This antenna serves both as a sensor and as a transmitter for signals induced by respiratory movements,” says Professor Messaddeq. The data can be transmitted to the user’s smartphone or to a nearby computer. ”
The function of this antenna is based on the increase of the circumference of the thorax and the volume of air in the lungs during the inspiration, explains the researcher. “Some mechanical and electromagnetic properties of the antenna are then modified. For this reason, there is no need for direct skin contact or tight clothing. The oscillations which accompany each breathing make it possible to determine the respiratory rate of the subject. The best results were obtained when the antenna was deployed spirally. ”
Unlike other respiratory rate measurement systems, this intelligent garment works without the need to attach wires, electrodes or sensors to the user’s body, Professor Messaddeq emphasizes. “The garment is comfortable and it does not hinder the natural movements of the subject. Our tests have shown that the data they produce is reliable, regardless of whether the user is lying, sitting, standing or moving. “Ultimately, a t-shirt with an antenna was tested Machine wash. “After 20 washing cycles, the antenna was resistant to water and detergent. It was still in good condition and functional, “says the researcher.
The COPL team that signs the article published in Sensors is composed of Philippe Guay, Stepan Gorgutsa and Younès Messaddeq of the Department of Physics, Physical and Optical Engineering and Sophie LaRochelle of the Department of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. Computer Engineering.