Smart mattress to support neonatal babies

Premature babies, which require specialist neonatal care, will be kept at an appropriate temperature to reduce the risk of complications and improve developmental outcomes thanks to new research by Nottingham Trent University.

A project led by Professor Peter Ford, a product design expert from the School of Art & Design, has developed a smart warming system that provides enough heat via a mattress to ensure babies are kept warm.

Babies born prematurely can lose body heat rapidly and are at an increased risk of complications if their body temperature is not maintained properly. Active warming can avoid the need for more intensive intervention and improve a baby’s early development.

The project – which is in collaboration with Chesterfield-based Rober Ltd – centres on a mattress that applies uniform and precisely controlled heating characteristics.

Professor Ford said: “It’s essential that clinicians can provide reliable thermal management and doing so outside an incubator has significant advantages.

“Very young babies cannot thermoregulate as adults do, so maintaining an appropriate body temperature at such a vulnerable age is essential.

“Babies not kept at the right temperature face increased risk of developing complications, so we were keen to develop something which helps ensure that their chances of normal development are maximised.”

The mattress – made from polyurethane elastomers and foam – has to be precisely controlled to ensure it delivers the correct amount of heat and meets the demanding medical device standards.

A working prototype which has been developed by the university is now expected to undergo testing before being released onto the open market.

Michael Hutson, Managing Director of Rober Ltd, said: “We’re proud to work on this project with Nottingham Trent University and believe that the technology we are developing together will provide vital support to some of the most fragile of lives on the planet.

“By allowing neonatal babies to sleep on smart mattresses which provide the precise temperature for their needs, we will be able to minimise the risk of temperature-related complications.

“We look forward to testing the technology thoroughly with view to providing a product to the open market in due course.”