Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley; Berkeley, CA) have developed a flexible sensor that uses organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) to map blood-oxygen levels over large areas of skin, tissue, and organs, with the goal of giving doctors a way to monitor healing wounds in real time.
The sensor is made of organic electronics printed on bendable plastic that molds to the contours of the body. Unlike fingertip oximeters, it can detect blood-oxygen levels at nine points in a grid and can be placed anywhere on the skin. It could potentially be used to map oxygenation of skin grafts, or to look through the skin to monitor oxygen levels in transplanted organs, the researchers say.
Existing oximeters use LEDs to shine red and near-infrared (near-IR) light through the skin and then detect how much light makes it to the other side. Red, oxygen-rich blood absorbs more IR light, while darker, oxygen-poor blood absorbs more red light. By looking at the ratio of transmitted light, the sensors can determine how much oxygen is in the blood.