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Optical pulse oximeter aimed at wearable, healthcare apps

09 Feb 2016  | Steve Taranovich

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Maxim Integrated has recently unveiled the MAX30102, an optical heart rate IC for the wrist, finger, or even the ear. Any reasonably translucent site on the body with adequate blood flow can be used with the device, according to the company.


Pulse oximetry works by oxygen binding to haemoglobin in red blood cells as it moves through your lungs. Arterial blood flow carries this all through your body. A pulse oximeter uses two frequencies of light (red and infrared) to determine the percentage of haemoglobin in the blood that is saturated with oxygen. This percentage is called blood oxygen saturation, or SpO2.

The pulse oximetry principle is based upon the red and infrared light absorption characteristics of oxygenated and deoxygenated (or reduced) haemoglobin. Oxygenated haemoglobin absorbs more infrared light and allows more red light to pass through. Deoxygenated haemoglobin absorbs more red light and allows more infrared light to pass through. Red light is in the 600nm to 750nm wavelength light band, while infrared light is in the 850nm to 1000nm wavelength light band.

The pulse oximeter can measure and display pulse rate simultaneously with the SpO2 level. This is a non-invasive, real-time technique particularly in vital sign monitoring during an operation or under anaesthesia.

MAX30102 typical system block diagram

MAX30102 typical system block diagram (Image courtesy of Maxim)

I can see how this product will shorten design time to market for wearables and other types of healthcare solutions. The IC is low power, operating on a single 1.8V supply with a separate 5V supply for the internal LEDs and small footprint so that it easily can be integrated into the wearables market. The analogue integration is central to the performance of this chip which integrates red and IR LEDs to modulate LED pulses for oxygen saturation (SpO2) and heart rate measurements.

The IC also integrates the photo-detectors, optical elements, and low-noise electronics with ambient light rejection, using an integrated cover glass to improve accuracy of the measurement. The IC has high SNR to allow for robust artifact resilience as well.

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