Researchers from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques (Fraunhofer IPM) have developed a fluorescence-based sensor for measuring and monitoring oxygen levels in the blood.

According to its developers, the 26 mm device can be added to a breathing mask or ventilator using a T-connector. The team suggests that the device could potentially serve as a replacement for current technology used to measure blood oxygen levels — for instance flawed pulse oximeters or invasive arterial blood samples.
Source: Fraunhofer IPMSource: Fraunhofer IPM

The sensor device, which features an LED light source, a detector, two sapphire lenses and a sample with a fluorophore coating, reportedly measures the oxygen content in the breath of a patient. This, the researchers suggest, enables them to reach conclusions about the blood oxygen concentration, explaining that: “We use the quenching effect for the O2 sensor we developed.”

The team further explained that fluorescence quenching is a method in medical engineering that refers to the way that the sensor reads oxygen levels in the respiratory gas— which is done with an aluminum substrate covered in a fluorescent chemical compound dubbed pyrene that responds to oxygen.

When exposed to oxygen and light from the LED, the pyrene on the sensor glows at a specific intensity, the researchers added. In other words, the higher the oxygen levels, the duller the pyrene glows. Conversely, the brighter the pyrene glows, the less oxygen is present.

“Our measuring method is so fast and precise that we can measure oxygen concentrations down to the level of individual breaths,” the team explained

The researchers are eyeing the tiny sensor for applications where it might be used by paramedics, other medical personnel and at home by patients with lung disease.

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