April 19, 2009

New sensor to check medical equipment hygiene

Worried if the hospital equipment being used on you is hygienic or not?

Now leave behind all worries as British researchers have claimed to have developed a sensor which will prompt you when the instrument is infected.

In this new process, a high frequency sound wave is passed through a disinfecting liquid to create bubbles that implode. The force of each implosion removes contaminate particles from surrounding materials.


The sensor developed by National Physical Laboratory (NPL) monitors the acoustic signals generated when the bubbles implode.

Till now, cavitation was one of the most effective cleaning process used widely by doctors and dentists to clean and disinfect surgical instruments.

But there was no accurate method of identifying how much cavitation takes place at different locations in a cleaning system, and, therefore, no measurable way to ensure whether the cleaning process is effective or not.

The sensor listens to the bubbles as they collapse and uses the sound to identify how much cavitation is taking place at a given location.

"Cavitation is a powerful process but until now users have had no way to measure exactly how loud to shout in order to get a useful amount of bubbles, nor been able to quantify how energetic those bubbles are," he adds.

Until now the only way to ascertain cavitation rates was to lower a piece of aluminium foil into the liquid and count the number of 'dents' caused by bubble implosion.

"They've previously had to rely on trial and error. This is dangerous when you are dealing with cleanliness in medical environments, and a waste of energy. The NPL sensor provides a new tool for improving cleaning systems and aiding instrument hygiene," says Hodnett.

The new sensor comes with an added advantage, it helps technicians to fine-tune and optimise equipment so that only required energy is used thus also reducing costs and environmental impact.

The device recently also won the annual Outstanding Ultrasonics Product award from the Ultrasonic Industry Association.

"To spark cavitation we use ultrasonics to 'shout' at a liquid. Our sensor then listens to the response and tells us how much cavitation is taking place as a result of using that particular stimulus," explains Mark Hodnett, a Senior Research Scientist at NPL.

Link: Original Article

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