Pulse oximeter displays blood oxygen levels on a PC

The last time you were in the emergency room after a horrible accident involving a PVC pressure vessel, a nurse probably clipped a device called a pulse oximeter onto one of your remaining fingers. These small electronic devices detect both your pulse and blood oxygen level with a pair of LEDs and a photosensor. [Anders] sent in a great tutorial for building your own pulse oximeter using a fancy ARM dev board, but the theory behind the operation of this device can be transferred to just about any microcontroller platform.

The theory behind a pulse oximeter relies on the fact that hemoglobin absorbs red and infrared light differently based on its oxygenation levels. By shining a red and IR LED through a finger onto a photoresistor, it’s possible to determine a person’s blood oxygen level with just a tiny bit of math.

Of course a little bit of hardware needs to be thrown into the project; for this, [Anders] used an EMF32 Gecko starter kit, a great looking ARM dev board. After connecting the LEDs to a few transistors and opamps, [Anders] connected his sensor circuit to the ADC on the Gecko board. From here it was very easy to calculate his blood oxygen level and even display his pulse rate to a PC application.

Yes, for just the price of a dev board and a few LEDs, it’s possible to build your own medical device at a price far below what a commercial pulseox meter would cost. FDA approval not included.