By switching from traditionally-known silicon to an organic, carbon-based design, the researchers were able to create a device that could ultimately be thin, cheap and flexible enough to be slapped on like a band-aid during the jog or hike up the hill.

The team created a pulse oximeter sensor composed of all-organic optoelectronics that uses red and green light. The device measures arterial oxygen saturation and heart rate as accurately as conventional, silicon-based pulse oximeters.

"There are various pulse oximeters in the market that measure pulse rate and blood-oxygen saturation levels but those devices use rigid conventional electronics and are usually fixed to the fingers or earlobe," explained Ana Arias, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at UC Berkeley.

The engineers put the new prototype up against a conventional pulse oximeter and found that the pulse and oxygen readings were just as accurate.

The team reported its findings in the journal Nature Communications.

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