Autonomous sensor for the detection of breathing problems

Scientists from the Microelectronics Institute of Barcelona (IMB CNM – CSIC), the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) have developed an autonomous thermoelectric sensor based on silicon nanotechnology to detect flow changes. It can be applied to the  detection of breathing problems.


The sensor developed.This sensor is extremely sensitive detecting gas flow changes and changes in temperature. This enables physical variables, which are interesting in many fields such as the health sector, to be monitored in real-time.

“The particularity of the sensor is that it doesn’t require external power as it uses the residual heat as an energy source, which makes it autonomous, easy to integrate in wireless networks and substantially cheaper than other similar commercial devices”, says Sebastian Moreno, CEO of FutureSiSens, the spin-off company created by the scientists to commercialize the sensor. In the health field, the device can be applied to controlling the breathing of a person in order to detect problems such as apnea or pneumonia.

 “We are testing a prototype in a hospital in order to compare our sensor with the equipment they use to evaluate these disorders and to find out the advantages of our sensor”, says Moreno. “Nowadays, for a good diagnostic, patients have to spend a night in the hospital to be monitored by specialized staff. Patients have to sleep with many sensors connected to the body. We think our sensor, with its small size, autonomy and  sensitivity, is a promising alternative”, he highlights.

Because of its reduced size – now 5 millimeters which will be reduced in the future even less: to 2.5 millimeters- scientists think the sensor could be implemented also into individual protection equipment, such as clothing for professionals who are exposed to risk environments, like fire-fighters or miners. Therefore, the sensor could detect a respiratory arrest instantaneously and to send an instant alarm.