The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and PolyPhotonix have worked together to develop a wearable electronic blanket that uses printed lighting to administer a phototherapy for the possible treatment of a number of skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, eczema and jaundice. The blanket could also be used for wound healing and anti-inflammatory treatments.
The light blanket uses flexible OLED lighting technology and has been designed to be home based, to deliver a precise dose of light therapy as part of a continuing treatment. To be certain of patient compliance, the treatment schedule and dosage of the light are programmable so it can be preset by doctors, not only to optimise treatment, but also to permit the treatment of a number of different conditions. The prototype is also capable of sensing and logging when the device is being worn, and records and logs the usage, providing the opportunity for a next generation healthcare device that measures disease progression, monitors infection, and can manage dosage.
The prototype was created as part of a twelve month Innovate UK feasibility study titled ‘BAMBOO’ which finished in June 2015 and sought to explore the commercial and medical potential of a light emitting fabric device for a range of phototherapy treatments. The commercialisation of such devices will not only speed up and improve the treatment of a number of skin conditions but also provides the opportunity to bring low cost, single use, disposable applications that are easy and comfortable to use to the mass market.
CPI’s role in the project was to design and print the sensor circuitry onto fabric and then integrate the circuit elements with flexible OLEDs to ensure a working prototype. Polyphotonix, who led the project, provided specialist expertise in the field of OLED lighting and medical technology applications.
The prototype incorporates into fabric printed temperature, capacitive touch and switch sensing. A number of fabric materials were tested and analysed. The fabric used in the prototype is stretchable and breathable enabling the sensors able to operate when bent around the forearm, for example. The project evaluated strain gauge sensor switching on fabric for possible applications including energy harvesting and RFID. A wide range of printable sensors were also evaluated to determine their potential to monitor disease progression and the early diagnosis of complications such as wound infections.
PolyPhotonix is a pioneer of wearable phototherapy treatment devices, with the Noctura 400 treatment mask, a treatment for diabetic retinopathy currently available in the market place. Through the BAMBOO project, PolyPhotonix has identified a number of medical conditions that have published scientific evidence to show that they respond to certain wavelengths of light. Through discussions with key clinicians within the NHS , PolyPhotonix has identified where there is a clinical need and has developed proof of concept devices that will treat a number of conditions. Printed electronics based sensors within the BAMBOO proof of concept devices have shown that it is feasible to produce soft, comfortable and intelligent treatment devices that will deliver a measured dosage of phototherapy allowing at home, point of care, treatments for post natal jaundice, psoriasis, wound healing etc. Taking patients from a clinical environment into home based therapy is key to cost savings within the NHS and will make treatments more competitive.Alex Cole
Chief Scientific Officer, PolyPhotonix
Early stage wearable items such as bandages or phototherapy blankets are showing great promise and the medical industry will benefit greatly from the work carried out by CPI and Polyphotonix. New generations of wearable and skin-conformal devices are beginning to materialise that will not only improve the treatment of skin conditions but also provide the opportunity to substantially enhance patient comfortEddie Iredia
Electronics Engineer, CPI
Wearable electronics is an exciting area of interest to CPI. The project has developed a working demonstration device that can be placed on the forearm or any part of the skin. The prototype developed includes the printing of electronics on fabric and opens up a host of opportunities for further applications in the area of wearable electronics.
Going forward, future developments will be towards developing the printing techniques from current sheet form to that of more production ready roll to roll manufacturing methods. Work will also be undertaken to investigate the technology developed for other high potential applications areas such as sportswear and safety equipment.Neil Porter
Technical Print Manager, CPI