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Lasers & photonics


traction during the pandemic, as changes in skin temperature can be an indicator of infection. Excelitas develops optical biosensor components like photodiodes, essentially LEDs specialised for IR temperature sensing, for just these applications. The ongoing trend is towards smaller devices that require less power while making it possible to cluster IR Sensors with other optical solutions. Another observable trend moves biosensing towards the ear, with so-called ‘(h)earable’ devices. These technologies may still need some time to evolve and gain traction, but as wireless headphones become more and more suited to functioning as hearing aids, the attraction of combining them with biosensors only grows. This trend also expands the target audience from sporty, fashion-conscious consumers to include older people who aren’t shy about wearing a visible ‘(h)earable’ that both improves their hearing and is able to give audible real-time updates on their health status. Optical biosensors could also be combined with acoustics in photoacoustic sensors for wearables. Imec is investigating how to miniaturise hardware for sending out light and capturing sound waves to enable new sensing modalities. For example, photoacoustic sensors could be used to measure oxygen and oxidative stress, a biomarker in many chronic diseases. Imec is also applying its expertise in miniaturisation to shrink complex Raman spectroscopes for integration into everyday devices. Collaborations with clinical partners are helping Imec learn how this new technique can be used in clinical practice.


Lighting the way Obviously, the light source is a central piece of any optical biosensor, and the wavelength of that light source has to be chosen with care. There are a few factors that determine that decision: namely, water absorption, isosbestic wavelength and tissue penetration depth. Water, the major component of most body tissues, has high light- absorbing characteristics in the longer wavelength regions of infrared and ultraviolet. The isosbestic point is a specific wavelength at which different samples have the same absorptivity. For instance, a contrast in absorption between oxyhaemoglobin (HbO2) and haemoglobin (Hb) can be observed except at the isosbestic wavelengths, which is around 805nm for the near-infrared region. At that point, the signal remains unaffected by changes in blood oxygenation.


As optical biosensors truly become the centrepieces of wearable devices, they need to be comfortable, non-obtrusive, autonomous and compact. Furthermore, the development and


Medical Device Developments / www.nsmedicaldevices.com


production of wearable devices requires a combination of expertise from many different fields. Even within photonics, the ecosystem is very scattered, which is a major challenge for end-user companies and manufacturers. On top of that, the strict regulations applied to wearable devices with medical classifications slow down the introduction of new solutions. To address these challenges, MedPhab has developed a pilot production line for accelerating the commercialisation of wearable diagnostic and point-of-care devices based on photonics technologies while reducing R&D costs. The pilot line is designed to provide a seamless transition to up-scaled production without a need for changing service providers. MedPhab’s high-quality infrastructure and extensive know-how is complemented with a globally unique ability to meet requirements and regulations in the medical domain. There’s plenty still to be achieved. Further integration of wearable devices with cloud-based data will help to improve and personalise their performance and diagnostic value. Continuous monitoring, meanwhile, will contribute not only to the measurement of vital parameters following treatments, but can support a personalised approach to preventative medicine. The connectivity of wearable devices should also enable a faster shift to digital medicine, while making healthcare more accessible for patients in remote locations. Certainly, multiple sensing strategies need to be developed and coordinated to make more biomarkers accessible to monitoring, and validation studies of wearable biosensor performance are required for them to achieve clinical acceptance. But the real-time sensing of physiological information using wearable biosensor technologies is already having a broad impact on our daily lives. The paradigm is shifting. ●


Above: A fibre-based device used for imaging the respiratory tract to diagnose sleep apnoea.


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Philips


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