Unobtrusive Respiratory Flow Monitoring Using a Thermopile Array: a Feasibility Study

Low-resolution thermal cameras have already been used in the detection of respiratory flow. However, microbolometer technology has a high production cost compared to thermopile arrays. In this work, the feasibility of using a thermopile array to detect respiratory flow has been investigated in multiple settings. To proof the concept, we tested the detector on 6 healthy subjects. Our method automatically selects the region-of-interest by discriminating between sensor elements that output noise and flow-induced signals. The thermopile array yielded an average root mean square error of 1.59 breaths per minute. Parameters such as distance, breathing rate, orientation, and oral or nasal breathing resulted to be fundamental in the detection of respiratory flow. The paper provides the proof-of-concept that low-cost thermopile-arrays can be used to monitor respiratory flow in a lab-setting and without the need of facial landmark detection. Further development could provide a more attractive alternative for the earlier bolometer-based proposals.