ENGINEERING NEWS

Wireless Sensors for NICU Monitoring Featured in Chicago Tribune, Other Outlets

John Rogers’s soft, flexible sensors provide clinical-grade measurements, promote baby-parent bonding

An interdisciplinary Northwestern University team has developed a pair of soft, flexible wireless body sensors that replace the tangle of wire-based sensors that currently monitor premature babies in hospitals’ neonatal intensive care units (NICU) and pose a barrier to parent-baby cuddling and physical bonding.

A novel pair of soft, flexible sensors developed by a Northwestern University team including Northwestern Engineering's John Rogers are the first to monitor babies in the NICU without wires, providing clinical-grade measurements and promoting physical bonding between baby and parent.

The groundbreaking work has been featured in several news outlets, including the Chicago Tribune.

John Rogers

Rogers worked with researchers and clinicians from Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago to test the sensors on more than 70 babies in the NICU. 

The team found that the bio-compatible, soft elastic silicone sensors, embedded with a collection of tiny electronic components, could measure babies’ vital sides, including heart rate, respiration rate, and body temperature, as accurately as traditional monitoring systems. The sensors are also gentler on a newborn’s fragile skin, reducing the risk of scarring and allowing for more skin-to-skin contact with the parent.

“We were able to reproduce all of the functionality that current wire-based sensors provide with clinical-grade precision,” said Rogers, the Louis Simpson and Kimberly Querrey Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Biomedical Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering. “Our wireless, battery-free, skin-like devices give up nothing in terms of range of measurement, accuracy, and precision — and they even provide advanced measurements that are clinically important but not commonly collected.”

The findings were published in the journal Science on March 1. It has since also been profiled by the Today Show, CBS News, Popular Science, MIT Tech Review, Science FridayNational Geographicand many others.