The 2023 COMPAMED Innovation Forum: This is why high-tech sensor technology is crucial for health care!
The 2023 COMPAMED Innovation Forum: This is why high-tech sensor technology is crucial for health care!
The cost of health care is rising the world over, and in almost all OECD member states, it is rising even faster than their ability to keep up. Modern technologies can at least help to mitigate this development while ensuring at the same time that the quality of care does not suffer and that staff (see “lack of skilled workers”) is given a respite. This is especially true of sensors which play an increasingly important part in medical technology to make medical devices even more powerful and safe, and to simplify their operation. How to achieve this and how high-tech sensor technology can also contribute to innovative prevention and personalised treatment was discussed at the COMPAMED Innovation Forum 2023 on 12 June. This digital forum, organised by Messe Düsseldorf and the International Microtechnology Business Network IVAM, is held every year and, according to Dr Thomas R. Dietrich, managing director of IVAM, its purpose is to be “a platform for research and entrepreneurship, to form partnerships and drive innovations forward”.
The importance of this year’s topic is demonstrated by the numbers alone: According to the market research institute Mordor Intelligence, the global market for medical sensors was estimated at 6.02 billion US dollars in 2021 and will reach USD 10.28 billion by 2027, which corresponds to a growth rate of almost 10 percent over the time period from 2022 to 2027. The development of new devices which guarantee a faster analysis, potential savings and easy usability all contribute to this growth for medical sensors.
Chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and asthma can be efficiently monitored using modern sensors so that deviations can quickly be recognised and treatment can be adapted to a specific goal. In their presentations at the COMPAMED Innovation Forum, leading international experts showed actual examples of how modern sensor technology can be integrated into medical aids, diagnostic or treatment devices.
Multi-functional sensor nodes to reduce nosocomial infections
Hospitals and care institutions are not only places of healing and maintaining health, but again and again become sources of infection themselves. Infections occurring during treatment in health care institutions, so-called nosocomial infections, happen in all outpatient and inpatient areas of care. According estimates by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in American hospitals alone, 1.7 million people are directly affected by such infections every year, which correlate to 100,000 deaths. The situation is no better in Europe: The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) estimated the annual total number of nosocomial infections (NI) in Europe at 8.9 million as early as 2018, of which 4.5 million occurred in hospitals and 4.4 million in long-term care institutions. Every year in the EU countries, more than 90,000 people die of the six most common nosocomial infections in the health care sector, especially urinary tract infections (32 percent), infections at the operation site (22 percent), pneumonia (15 percent) and bloodstream infections (14 percent).
The Greek company ES Systems has therefore developed a system of sensor nodes for use in medical facilities that collects data in real time and identifies potential microbiological contaminations. The system is based on sensor nodes, a gateway and a cloud. The sensors connect to a local gateway using “LoRaWAN” (“long range wide area network”) communication, connection to the cloud is realised through a simple QR scan. The installation is very easy, and depending on the data rate, autonomous operation is possible for up to a year. The sensor nodes measure environmental parameters like temperature, pressure, humidity and intensity of light, but also the concentration of carbon dioxide, VOC (volatile organic compounds), particles and the presence of persons. In a pilot application at a Greek hospital, three operating theatres, three reception areas, two patient rooms and one nurses’ station were fitted with the sensor nodes. Intelligent evaluation of the large data volumes makes it possible to draw good conclusions regarding the contamination situation. Some improvements were already achieved by replacing air circulation devices and filters in the operating theatres: “The particles monitored were reduced and thus the patients’ risk of infection was decreased”, said Nikolas Valantassis, Business Development Manager at ES System, in his presentation. The pilot run shows that the use of sophisticated sensor technology could noticeably decrease the risk of nosocomial infections.
For almost 30 years, PI Ceramic has been studying piezo technology which, courtesy of its unique properties, makes especially important contributions to medical sensor technology. Of note are the precision, with a resolution into the picometre range, dynamics with a reaction time in microseconds, energy efficiency which also allows for battery-dependent operational applications, a compact design with dimensions measuring millimetres and bi-directional use as sensors and actuators. Today, piezo technological components are already fulfilling important functions within diagnostic imaging, minimally invasive devices (e.g., needle tip tracking), as flow sensors (for example for detecting air bubbles and speed), for the detection of fill levels, as pressure sensors and as status monitors for devices, in microscopy or for changes of position, e.g., when used in wearables.
In different situations, automatic monitoring of medical processes becomes a matter of life or death. Using devices for monitoring patients, staff can continue to check vital signs and evaluate them in order to make a correct diagnosis and instantly react in the case of possible abnormalities. Noncontacting, gentle monitoring is important in this context as well. Ultrasound sensors based on piezo components, which can be mounted on the tubes of monitoring devices, are ideally suited for this purpose – ultrasound waves penetrate the tube from the outside and make noncontacting monitoring possible. The ultrasound sensors can also help monitor different media, for example with noncontacting, non-contaminating measurement of the gas flow inside respirators or detection of potentially fatal bubbles of air in the tubes of heart-lung machines or dialysis machines. Piezo components integrated into the ultrasound sensors generate the ultrasound. PI Ceramic produces these piezo elements – custom made to the specifications of customers. “We have a wide range of designs available, depending on the application”, says Sandra Niederschuh, product manager at PI Ceramic.
Electronic nose to revolutionise medical diagnostics
Thanks to high-tech cameras and microphones, machines today can already see and hear. Partners SmartNanotubes Technologies and duotec have committed themselves to no less than digitalising a further sense – that of smell. “Our electronic nose really is a disruptive technology which will revolutionise many applications from process monitoring to medical diagnostics”, says Dr Viktor Bezugly, CEO of SmartNanotubes. Compared to common gas sensors, the SmartNanotubes sensors are highly sensitive, energy-efficient, compact, light-weight and less expensive. Their use makes it possible to recognise complex patterns, which are typical for scents. Several sensors create a "scent pattern”, a self-learning software compares these patterns with a library and, in this way, distinguishes gasses from scents. The cloud-based database continues to expand, and is already being fed by more than 1,000 users. “Our goal is, for example, the early diagnosis of incontinence in only five minutes, which through reduced cleaning efforts can generate cost savings of up to 100 euros per case”, says Bezugly in his Forum lecture. The development has progressed so far that a market launch of initial products could already be possible in 2024.
Photonic biosensors for early cancer diagnosis
Over the last ten years, biosensor technologies have been developed which enable the sensitive, quantitative detection of biomarkers (indicator molecules, e.g., special proteins or DNA) for diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular and infectious diseases. The Dutch company Surfix is working in this area using a photonic biosensor. This highly sensitive, fast and label-free technology offers the opportunity to detect several biomarkers at once. “Together with the low cost per unit and the easy scaling options of production, this function will revolutionise the world of medical diagnostics by allowing point-of-care diagnosis and monitoring the treatment of many diseases”, says Hans Dijk, business development manager at Surfix. The photonic biosensor by Surfix combines a photonic biochip and microfluidic cartridge with intelligent technologies for the fluid and optical interface in an optimised process sequence. Both the photonic biochip and the microfluidic cartridge profit from unique nano coatings, which improve the sensitivity of the sensor and the flow of the sample and reduce the unwanted binding of biomolecules. The signal from the photonic biosensor is read out by a desktop reader.
Photonic biochips use light instead of electricity to determine the presence of biomarkers. Light passes through a spiral structure on the chip, comparable to a miniature optic fibre. Receptor molecules applied to the surface of the photonic biochip can selectively capture and bind certain biomarkers in a sample, based on biorecognition. The interaction between the receptor molecules and the biomarkers leads to a change in the properties of the light, which is recognised and translated into a useful diagnostic result, e.g., information regarding the presence or concentration of a certain biomarker in the sample. Surfix concentrates on developing diagnostics for different types of cancer and on detecting oncological biomarkers in liquid biopsies. “Potentially, any biomolecule can be determined with the aid of the photonic diagnostic platform by Surfix”, says Dijk.
The goal of the APFEL project: an intelligent electronic plaster
Healing wounds is a problem that still has not been completely understood and solved. Acute wounds heal within a few days or weeks, depending on the size of the injury. The property of an electric gradient to cause directional movement and polarisation of cells in regenerative tissue is the starting point for different therapies developed by the BMBF project “APFEL”: An “intelligent electronic plaster” is supposed to lead to faster and improved wound healing. In this project, the Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nanosystems (ENAS) and its partners are researching additive procedures to manufacture electronic systems with several flexible layers. In the meantime, a technological demonstrator for an electrically active plaster with printed electrodes on flexible substrates has been created. In a scratch assay, gaps were introduced to a cell layer and the accelerated closure of this “wound” was demonstrated. “To achieve this, we adapted screen printing methods for the manufacture of conductive and insulating multi-layer strata on flexible substrates”, said Valeri Fitz, scientific research fellow in the System Packaging department at ENAS, at the COMPAMED Innovation Forum. Further development included electrical vias for thin film substrates and structuring and connective technologies for the hybrid integration of common electronic components and related electronic control systems for testing the demonstrators. The result is that additive manufacturing can be used to develop flexible medical pads which can be used both for the treatment of wounds and in diagnostics.
Laser diodes for measuring blood sugar levels – low-cost and painless
Trumpf Photonic Components already has more than 20 years of experience with miniature laser diodes, so-called “VCSEL”, meaning “vertical cavity surface emitting laser”. These are already being used today for smartphones and smart watches, digital data transmission and autonomous driving. As the global market leader in VCSEL, Trumpf now wants to use the diodes to help diabetics measuring their blood sugar levels. The goal is a revolutionary, non-invasive portable sensor that is low-cost and monitors blood glucose levels without causing any pain. The basic principle of photonic components by TRUMPF is a monochromatic, polarised light source that shows an inelastic dispersion of light in the near-infrared spectrum between 785 and 1,066 nanometres. “While today’s solutions rely on the Neodym YAG laser with a wavelength of 1,060 nanometres, we see great advantages in Raman spectroscopy. At approximately 800 nanometres, its wavelength is ideal for measuring glucose, because interfering fluorescence is low, dispersion is sufficient and the laser energy is only moderate”, says Dr Cynthia Klett, product manager at TRUMPF Photonic Components.
According to data from the International Diabetes Federation, across the world, 540 million people are living with the metabolic disease diabetes. By 2030, this number is expected to rise to 643, and by 2045 to 783 million. As of now, diabetes has caused global health expenses of almost 966 billion dollars. VCSEL lasers pave the way for a glucose sensor at the wrist which will make the lives of affected people much easier.
Impressive outlook for topics at COMPAMED 2023
“Sensor technology for prevention and personalised therapy” – that was the headline of this year's COMPAMED Innovation Forum. The examples demonstrated at the event offered an extensive preview of the content for COMPAMED 2023 in Düsseldorf and were also an impressive demonstration of the breadth of technologies and applications that has become so characteristic for the professional trade fair COMPAMED over the years.
“The importance of sensors for medical technology cannot be overestimated, as they are the basis for precise diagnoses, effective treatments and improvements within patient care. The future developments of sensor technology within medical technology promise a growing breadth of applications, from implantable sensors for monitoring chronic diseases to compact wearables that can be worn on the body and continually monitor people’s health in a way that is reliable and saves money”, says Dr Thomas Dietrich, CEO of IVAM, in his summary of the COMPAMED Innovation Forum 2023.
If you want to see for yourself what medical technology industry suppliers are capable of beyond the field of sensor technology, the best option is COMPAMED 2023 (from 13-16 November) in Düsseldorf, in the trade fair Halls 8a and 8b. In five different worlds of experience, more than 700 exhibiting companies present their wide range of high-tech and service solutions. The five worlds of experience are: Manufacturing & Devices (e.g., components, parts, manufacturing processes), Services & Advice (e.g., research, development, services), Materials (e.g., plastics, glass, ceramics, metals, composite materials, adhesives, packaging), Micro Tech (such as micro components, microfluidics) as well as IT in Tech (software development and maintenance for medical technology).
According to the fixed schedule, COMPAMED 2023 will again take place concurrently with the internationally leading medical trade fair MEDICA 2023, which this year is again expecting more than 5,000 companies that provide medical products and technology.
Michael Vellen / Daniela Nickel (Radio and TV) Tel: (+49) 211-4560-990 / 545 E-Mail: VellenM[at]messe-duesseldorf.de, NickelD[at]messe-duesseldorf.de
If you would like to receive regularly press releases about MEDICA and COMPAMED, you can subscribe to our press mailing list. This mailing list is explicitly addressed to journalists and media representatives.