Using an inexpensive 3D printer, the creators were able to develop an elastic membrane made of a soft and flexible silicon material. This membrane is made to match the shape of a patient’s epicardium – the outer layer of the heart wall.

The researchers then printed small sensors onto the membrane. These are made of semiconductor materials, including silicon, gallium arsenide, gallium nitride, metals, metal oxides and polymers.

The sensors are able to measure a number of markers of arrhythmia – a condition characterized by problems with the rate or rhythm of heartbeat.

Further explaining how the elastic membrane was created, Prof. Efimov says:

“We image the patient’s heart through MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) scan, then computationally extract the image to build a 3D model that we can print on a 3D printer.”

An example of the 3-D elastic membrane
Pictured is an example of the 3D custom-fitted elastic membrane.
Image Credit: Igor Efimov/Washington University
He adds that they then “mold the shape of the membrane that will constitute the base of the device deployed on the surface of the heart.”

There are already similar devices available that are 2D. But the researchers say because such devices are unable to cover the full surface of the epicardium, they can produce unreliable results.