Chemisense working on a wearable that could prevent asthma attacks

Chemisense

A company called Chemisense is developing a wearable air-quality monitor that uses a sensing technology to detect the presence of chemicals around person in real time. The sensor sends the information it gathers to an accompanying app to help people with respiratory conditions such as asthma to avoid attacks. Similarly those living in highly polluted areas could keep tabs on their exposure to hazardous substances.

In the U.S., air quality is monitored at thousands of stations across the country; maps and forecasts can be viewed online, but these monitors have a limited reach. Chemisense’s plan is to crowdsource data from users to show places around town where certain compounds are identified.

Berkeley, California-based startup has not yet made its initial product, but it expects it will be a wristband that uses polymers treated with charged nanoparticles of carbon which [polymers] swell in the presence of certain chemical vapors, and change the resistance of a circuit. The company hopes to have its first prototypes manufactured in six months.

A wristband would use polymers treated with charged nanoparticles of carbon which swell in the presence of certain chemical vapors, and change the resistance of a circuit.The underlying technology can already detect about a dozen chemicals and compounds, including benzene, hexane, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide, with support for detecting about 19 others coming in the (near?) future. However, the technology is not nearly as sensitive as Chemisense would like it to be: currently they can detect tens of parts per million for a number of compounds, though it’s working towards detecting hundreds of parts per billion. “I think that’s going to be our commercial limit for the time being,” co-founder and CEO Brian Kim says. In comparison, a municipal air-quality monitoring station would be able to detect between ten and one parts per billion.

The company plans to sell a $150 wristband geared toward kids with asthma to help them identify places and pollutants that tend to provoke attacks, and track their exposure to air pollution over time. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, this “market” counts some 7 million children in the U.S.

Going forward, Chemisense wants to expand its reach and eventually target people with other respiratory conditions, as well as those who are just concerned about air pollution.

[Via: MIT Technology Review]