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March 2001 Vol. 27, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Real Time Bubble Monitoring

from the March, 2001 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Scientists in Scotland are hard at work developing a wrist device that monitors the amount of air dissolved in divers’ blood, and then warns a diver to ascend more slowly if he is approaching the danger level.

The only way to determine whether someone has the bends is to use an ultrasound system on the surface, says Robert Forbes of Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Island Technology in the Orkney Islands. A technician gauges the extent of decompression by comparing the way ultrasound is reflected by the diver’s blood with prerecorded samples.

Forbes now aims to remove any room for error by giving divers real-time information while they are underwater that prevents the bends altogether. Helped by funding from The Wellcome Trust, his device beams sound waves into the wearer’s wrist. Software in the gadget analyzes the reflected signals to calculate the amount of gas in the blood to give the diver a read-out of the key figures. Forbes envisions fitting each device with a smart card that will constantly monitor the diver during, before and after the dive.

While they are developing the device for commercial divers, there is no doubt a bigger market in sport diving if the price is right. But it will be a while if we find out. They expect it will take five years to develop the product.

New Scientist magazine, 13 January 2001.

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