AsianScientist (Feb. 12, 2016) – Researchers have developed a micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) flow sensor so tiny and sensitive that it can aid in regulating the velocity of fluid flow in intravenous (IV) set-ups.
These MEMS sensors significantly reduce nurses’ workload while increasing their productivity by 30 percent and decreasing the complications of drug infusion via IV. The research paper was published in Nature Scientific Reports.
Currently, nurses check the patient’s IV about once every hour and after any major position change of the patient to ensure that the IV is still infusing at the correct rate. Inaccurate flow control in infusion therapies could lead to a number of medical complications which are potentially fatal, such as edema.
Researchers at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART)’s Centre for Environmental Sensing and Modeling (CENSAM) have developed bio-inspired sensors which can be inserted into the IV tube by the manufacturer at its sterile site. The researchers drew inspiration from the blind cave fish, which is covered with hundreds of neuromasts that can detect movement and pressure changes in the water.
These sensors cost less than S$1 (US$0.72) per IV tube. The control unit, which is still in development, will cost no more than S$120 (US$86). These are much cheaper than the current solution, the peristaltic pump, which costs a few thousand dollars and are mostly used in intensive care units.
“In nature, we find fine designs of biological nanosensors that work efficiently and accurately, and are long lasting,” said lead author, SMART Postdoctoral Associate Dr. Ajay Kottapalli. “The fundamental motivation of my research work is to study the ubiquitous, yet recently discovered scientific principles of nanoengineered sensors in nature and apply those lessons to design artificial nanosensors to target a specific application.”
“Although there are sensors that can detect velocity, the new sensor is unique because it combines the inexpensive fabrication and accuracy of the MEMS sensors with a robust design which makes it suitable for medical application,” said SMART Principal Investigator Professor Michael Triantafyllou.
The CENSAM team hopes to improve on the sensor’s robustness to make it suitable for biomedical applications in the future.
Source: Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research And Technology; Photo: Frank Vassen/Flickr/CC.
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