• 2017cover Present
  • 1
Friday, January 13, 2023 at 06:30 p.m.

Smart mask to monitor breathing remotely

Researchers from the URJC Materials Science and Engineering area have developed a sensor that is attached directly to the masks and is capable of distinguishing different states of respiration. In addition, the information it collects is transmitted remotely and in real time.

Irene Vega

There are numerous diseases that have an impact on human breathing such as COVID-19, bronchitis or the flu. In addition, the use of the mask is still mandatory in some spaces such as medical centers, hospitals, pharmacies or on public transport. Therefore, given this current scenario, a team of researchers from the URJC Materials Science and Engineering area has designed a low-cost smart mask capable of remotely monitoring breathing. This prototype has a built-in sensor, which can be placed on any conventional mask. “It is based on a highly flexible polymeric matrix doped with carbon nanostructures, which gives it a very low weight and high sensitivity to small deformations”, describes Alejandro Ureña, a researcher in the Materials Science and Engineering area.

The developed sensor is capable of distinguishing different states of respiration through the small deformations experienced by the material that constitutes it when attached to the mask. “The detection of these microdeformations is possible thanks to the changes in electrical conductivity experienced by the network of carbon nanostructures that is integrated into the polymeric matrix of the sensor”, explains the URJC researcher. In addition, this innovative system can transmit all the information remotely and in real time to computers, mobile phones or smart watches.

Thanks to these characteristics, the developed prototype could help combat upcoming potential pandemics and be very useful for different applications in hospitals, for example, centralizing their patients, or in home telecare. It could also be used to control the exposure of workers to extreme conditions, since the materials used are resistant to fire, smoke or humidity.

"Currently, the mask is in the patent process and is waiting to carry out clinical trials for its subsequent commercialization," says Alejandro Ureña. Funding from the Ministry of Science and Innovation has been provided for the realization of this system, through the research project Multifunctional composite materials with energy storage capacity and structural health monitoring for electric vehicles.

Multidisciplinary research team

This work is part of the doctoral thesis of Antonio del Bosque García, directed by the professors of Materials Science and Engineering María Sánchez Martínez and Alejandro Ureña Fernández. In addition, Professor Xoan Xosé Fernández Sánchez Romate has participated in the design of the sensor.

The development of this prototype has also had the collaboration of UPM researchers José Sánchez del Río and David Patrizi and IMDEA Materials scientists De-Yi Wang and Xiang-Ao, who have managed to transmit the signal in time real and wirelessly, up to 20 kilometers.