IEEE Access (Jan 2024)

Monitoring Cardiovascular Physiology Using Bio-Compatible AlN Piezoelectric Skin Sensors

  • Angela Tafadzwa Shumba,
  • Suleyman Mahircan Demir,
  • Vincenzo Mariano Mastronardi,
  • Francesco Rizzi,
  • Gaia De Marzo,
  • Luca Fachechi,
  • Paolo Motto Ros,
  • Danilo Demarchi,
  • Luigi Patrono,
  • Massimo De Vittorio

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12
pp. 16951 – 16962


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Arterial pulse waves contain a wealth of parameters indicative of cardiovascular disease. As such, monitoring them continuously and unobtrusively can provide health professionals with a steady stream of cardiovascular health indices, allowing for the development of efficient, individualized treatments and early cardiovascular disease diagnosis solutions. Blood pulsations in superficial arteries cause skin surface deformations, typically undetectable to the human eye; therefore, Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) can be used to measure these deformations and thus create unobtrusive pulse wave monitoring devices. Miniaturized ultrathin and flexible Aluminium Nitride (AlN) piezoelectric MEMS are highly sensitive to minute mechanical deformations, making them suitable for detecting the skin deformations caused by cardiac events and consequently providing multiple biomarkers useful for monitoring cardiovascular health and assessing cardiovascular disease risk. Conventional wearable continuous pulse wave monitoring solutions are typically large and based on technologies limiting their versatility. Therefore, we propose the adoption of $29.5 ~\mu \text{m}$ -thick biocompatible, skin-conforming devices on piezoelectric AlN to create versatile, multipurpose arterial pulse wave monitoring devices. In our initial trials, the devices are placed over arteries along the wrist (radial artery), neck (carotid artery), and suprasternal notch (on the chest wall and close to the ascending aorta). We also leverage the mechano-acoustic properties of the device to detect heart muscle vibrations corresponding to heart sounds S1 and S2 from the suprasternal notch measurement site. Finally, we characterize the piezoelectric device outputs observed with the cardiac cycle events using synchronized electrocardiogram (ECG) reference signals and provide information on heart rate, breathing rate, and heart sounds. The extracted parameters strongly agree with reference values as illustrated by minimum Pearson correlation coefficients (r) of 0.81 for pulse rate and 0.95 for breathing rate.