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Optical Fiber Watches Wounds

Woven into a bandage, an experimental optical fiber could monitor healing

3 min read
Optical Fiber Watches Wounds

23 May 2011—Monitoring a wound as it heals should get easier thanks to a new kind of optical fiber that could become a part of everyday bandages. The fiber’s coating alters in color in response to changes in acidity, a key health indicator in wounds. The core of the fiber carries light to and from an attached device, which caregivers could use to monitor a wound in real time, says Bastien Schyrr, a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering at the University of Fribourg, in Switzerland, who last month presented results of a laboratory trial in which the enhanced bandage detected acidity changes in a solution containing human serum.

Wound monitoring is a "massive problem," says bioengineer Patricia Connolly of the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow, who was not involved in Schyrr’s work. "In the UK alone there are 200 000 people with chronic wounds." Many of them are recovering surgery patients, diabetic patients, and others confined to bed and subject to pressure sores. To check on the healing progress, nurses must sometimes take samples from a wound—an invasive process with a risk of infection—and send them to a laboratory, where they are assessed for signs of infection and identification of bacteria. Schyrr’s fiber system, which detects the acid-induced change in the fiber by shining light into one end of a waveguide and measuring the color of the light coming out, could measure such things without having to lift the dressing.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
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A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic
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Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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