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New space stethoscope helps assess astronauts in noisy spacecrafts

Last Updated: Sunday, May 26, 2013 - 11:03

Washington: Students from The Johns Hopkins University`s Whiting School of Engineering have designed a new stethoscope for NASA to deliver accurate heart- and body-sounds to medics, who try to assess astronauts` health on long missions in noisy spacecraft.

With its whirring fans, humming computers and buzzing instruments, it is about as raucous as a party filled with laughing, talking people inside an spacecraft.

"Imagine trying to get a clear stethoscope signal in an environment like that, where the ambient noise contaminates the faint heart signal. That is the problem we set out to solve," Elyse Edwards, a senior from Issaquah, Wash., who teamed up on the project with fellow seniors Noah Dennis of New York City, and Shin Shin Cheng of Sibu, Sarawak, Malaysia, said.

The students worked under the guidance of James West, a Johns Hopkins research professor in electrical and computer engineering and co-inventor of the electret microphone technology developed for telephones and used today in almost 90 percent of the more than 2 billion microphones produced each year.

Together, they developed a stethoscope that uses both electronic and mechanical strategies to help the device`s internal microphone pick up sounds that are clear and discernable - even in the noisy spacecraft and even when the device is not placed perfectly correctly on the astronaut`s body.

The device also includes many other performance-enhancing improvements, including low power consumption, rechargeable batteries, mechanical exclusion of ambient noise and a suction cup, so that it sticks firmly onto the patient`s chest, Cheng said.

Though developed for NASA`s use in outer space, this improved stethoscope could also be put to use here on Earth in combat situations, where ambient noise is abundant, and in developing countries where medical care conditions are a bit more primitive.


First Published: Sunday, May 26, 2013 - 11:02
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