Development of low-cost, compact fibre optic O2 and CO2 gas sensors for COVID‑19 applications of portable metabolic analyzers

Chau, Kenneth | $25,500

British Columbia University of British Columbia 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

The goal of this partnership is to research and develop inexpensive optical technologies adapted from off-the-shelf components to improve the performance and reduce the cost of portable metabolic analyzers. Portable metabolic analyzers are wearable sensors capable of measuring oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production in the lungs, key indicators of human physiology and human health. There are at least two potential COVID‑19 related applications of portable metabolic analyzers. First, they can be used to provide real-time monitoring of COVID‑19 patients outside of the hospital setting. Second, they can be used in conjunction with open ventilator circuits to provide biofeedback during ventilation, an important capability to reduce the possibility of hypo- or hyper-ventilation. There are two obstacles associate with portable metabolic analyzers which must be overcome before they can be used in such applications. First, portable metabolic analyzers are too expensive for wide-scale use; the cheapest version on the market is the USD 5000 version sold by VO2 Master. Second, these analyzers require regular recalibration using compressed gas containers, limiting their ease of use.

This project will explore the feasibility of a fibre-optic gas sensor for detecting oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations under metabolically relevant conditions. The advantages of a fibre-based detector include its small size, absence of electrical interference, remote-sensing capabilities, and low cost. Fibre-optic sensors can be constructed from off-the-shelf components (such as LEDs, photodetectors, and optical fibres) and are thus readily prototyped and could potentially be applied in single-use applications, eliminating the need for costly recalibration required by conventional sensors. Researchers at UBC Okanagan will construct a fibre-based gas sensor prototype, which will be tested, calibrated, and integrated into a portable face-worn mask in collaboration with technical staff from VO2 Master.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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