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The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang are getting closer and closer, as temperatures outside are dropping. Athletes have trained for four years or maybe longer for just one goal: to give their absolute best in this – at least for some of the athletes – once in a lifetime opportunity. But, did you ever thought about how flow measurement could be of influence on the athletes’ performance? Here’s how…
A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit Relitech in Nijkerk. A company that is specialized in the development and design of reliable healthcare solutions. I talked to both Directors Ivar Donker and Henk van Middendorp about the activities of Relitech in the medical industry and their Metabolic Simulator. With all their enthusiasm and dedication in their line of work, I came to new insights regarding their matter and the importance of a company like Relitech.
In sports it’s all about optimal performance. Athletes are forced to push boundaries and the devil is in the details, more than ever. A few hundreds of a second can make a huge difference in - for example - a gold medal race. So testing the athletes’ condition and endurance is an important part in the bigger picture of their performances. This can help them to train more efficiently and it provides information that can be used for maybe a change in for example, the athlete’s diet. For metabolic measuring, a lung function device could be used and these systems often easily interfaced with ECG’s, bikes and other external devices for complete, integrated cardiopulmonary exercise testing.
The big question is how to get the best performance by meeting legal regulations? Validation is the magic word. And for that, Relitech developed a metabolic simulator. Let’s take a look at some of the technical details of a device like that.
In order to keep a high performance of respiratory products like lung function devices, they need to be validated, to meet the demands of legal regulations as well. The current situation in quality control regarding devices like these, is that it’s limited due to the fact that each sensor (O2, CO2 and flow) is calibrated separately, disregarding the critical dynamic interaction between each sensor. Relitech therefore came up with an in-field solution for their customers by developing this metabolic simulator.
As we’re getting closer to the answer on the question I asked at the very beginning of this blog, we need to dig a little deeper into the Relitech simulator. First of all it’s fully mobile, which means it’s easy to transport and secondly it is ideal for on-site testing (in for example a lung function device used for athletes). The simulator mixes pure nitrogen and carbon dioxide by using two Bronkhorst thermal mass flow controllers. By mixing those two gases you can generate breathing gas exchange patterns, real-time and extremely close to authentic human breathing patterns. The results are so-called capnographs that resemble the ones of for example, Olympic athletes. On the readout display of the Metabolic Simulator the capnograph values are visible. V’CO2 represents the exhaled amount of carbon dioxide and V’O2 is the amount of oxygen inhaled. BF is simply an abbreviation for breathing frequency.
“Using mass flow controllers is not new to me…” Van Middendorp explains, “…as I was already involved in designing lung function systems long before I joined Relitech in 2002.”
“As we started developing the metabolic simulator here at Relitech, we were looking for compact and highly accurate mass flow controllers and that’s where Bronkhorst and I crossed paths. So partly by using these compact thermal flow controllers we were able to develop an even more compact simulator design.”
With dedication and passion Relitech develops reliable technology by focusing on electronics, software and embedded software. In combination with consultancy regarding measurement technology, their core competence lies within the medical sector, such as lung function measurement, anaesthesia and hyperthermia applications. For this, the company is ISO13485 certified. By working closely with various universities and academical institutes, multinationals and small businesses they have built an impressive and very diverse customer portfolio.
So, for all the Olympic athletes out there, it’s time to put on the finishing touches and get ready for 2018. Oh and by the way, a Dutch sports data agency predicted that The Netherlands would come to a total of 19 medals in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Let’s see if we can reach or even surpass that…