German research team develop a heart radar system

German research team develop a heart radar system

German research team develop a heart radar system

Researchers from the technical university in Hamburg are using radar technology to create devices with a range of medical uses.

The heart radar

Professor Alexander Kölpin and his team of researchers at the Institute of High-Frequency Technology at the Technical University of Hamburg are developing radar systems for medical use, the first team in Europe to do so. Kölpin and his team have developed sensory systems for monitoring patients, which allows doctors to analyse a patient’s heartbeat and breathing.

Usually, a patient’s heartbeat is measured using an electrocardiogram (ECG), which requires the patient to be hooked up through electrodes and cables. However, radar technology allows doctors to monitor patients remotely. The radar sensor developed by Kölpin and his team can be used to monitor heartbeats and respiration rates through clothing, bed covers, and even mattresses, and transmit them to monitoring equipment.

"Our sensors emit electromagnetic waves that are reflected by the body. It works something like this: The blood pumped out by the heart travels along the vessels in the form of a pulse wave, which manifests as a vibration on the surface of the body. We can measure this with the sensors and determine many medical aspects of the cardiovascular system from it," Kölpin said.

How it works

The sensor works by detecting and analysing the surface of a patient’s skin, which actually raises ever-so-slightly when the heart pumps blood throughout the body. The sensor is so precise that it can be used to accurately measure heart rate, cardiac stress and pulse wave velocity, which can be used to discern the risk of stroke.

Kölpin’s new device will sound an alarm should it detect disturbances to a patient’s regular heartbeat. The radar can also be used to determine someone’s death as much as four days in advance.

Medical uses

Currently, researchers are using the device to monitor premature and newborn babies. "We are concentrating primarily on epileptic seizures. Undetected epilepsy is thought to be responsible for up to 20 percent of all sudden infant deaths. The problem is that these fits often go undiagnosed in infants because they don't yet have any motor seizures," Kölpin explained. The device allows the babies to be monitored remotely, without placing restrictions on the child.

The new device can also be used to remotely monitor people suffering from coronavirus, thereby reducing the risk of infection. "In conjunction with the cardiovascular and respiratory activity, we can also remotely measure the temperature. This means that important parameters for assessing someone's state of health in connection with a possible coronavirus infection can be tested," Kölpin said.

William Nehra


William Nehra

William studied a masters in Classics at the University of Amsterdam. He is a big fan of Ancient History and football, particularly his beloved Watford FC.

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