Smart holograms help self-diagnosis for patients
4 February 2008
Patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiac problems, kidney
disorders or high blood pressure could benefit from the development of
sensors made from a new type of hologram.
The hologram sensors could be designed to detect a wide range of changes
in the body's physiological conditions, for example continuous monitoring of
blood-glucose level for diabetics, and should make self-diagnosis much
simpler, cheaper and more reliable, say Professor Chris Lowe and Cynthia
Larbey in an article in
A smart hologram
Traditional holograms, like those on a credit card, are stored on
photo-sensitive materials and remain unchanged with time. These holograms
are widely used in authentication tags to deter copying, and on credit
cards, passports, and banknotes. They also underpin the technology of
supermarket scanners and CD players.
Smart holograms, however, use materials called hydrogels that shrink or
swell in response to local environmental conditions. Such holograms can
therefore be used as sensors to detect chemical changes.
Smart Holograms, a spin-out company from the Institute of Biotechnology
at Cambridge University, has already developed a hand-held syringe to
measure water content in aviation fuel tanks — necessary because aeroplane
engines are liable to freeze mid-air if there are more than 30 parts of
water per million of fuel.
The same ability to detect chemical imbalances could be used by diabetics
to check their blood-sugar levels; by patients with kidney disorders to
check on adrenaline levels; by security forces to detect chemicals like
anthrax after a terrorist attack; or, less urgently but with wide
applicability, by glazing firms to detect whether water has crept in between
window panes — something that can cause long-term structural damage.
As Chris Lowe and Cynthia Larbey write in an article in Physics World,
“Visual images produced by smart holograms can be made to appear or
disappear under appropriate chemical or biological stimuli, which makes them
ideal for use in breathalysers, monitoring heart conditions and for various
security and smart-packaging systems.”
The full article is available at: