Organic sensors displace silicon

fingersPeople who pay good money for electronic fitness sensors based on silicon technology could soon be faced with a far cheaper technology based on organic electronics.

Researchers at UC Berkeley said different pulse oximeters measure pulse rate and blood oxygen saturation levels but they’re based on LEDs that send light through fingertips or earlobes and sensors that measure light that comes through the other side.

The scientists have come up with a far cheaper organic design that deposits green and red organic OLEDs on a flexible piece of plastic and uses the detection of fresh arterial blood to calculate a pulse.

Ana Arias, a professor at the UC Berkeley team, said: “We showed that if you take measurements with different wavelengths ir works, and if you use unconventional semiconductors it works. Because organic electronics are flexible they can easily conform to the body.”

Components of conventional oximeters are relatively expensive, she said, and need disinfection.

But she added that organic electronics are so cheap that they can be thrown away like a sticky plaster once they’ve been used.