REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
Infant incubators are widely used in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) for the care of pre-term babies, as they cannot cope with the environment without external help. However, excessive high levels of noise inside an infant incubator have been found to result in numerous adverse health effects especially hearing impairments on weak, premature infants. The long-term goal of this project is to significantly reduce the noise level inside the infant incubator by using an active noise cancellation (ANC) approach. In this research, an innovative carbon nanotube based transparent thin film speaker will be designed as a secondary source, which actively produces an anti-noise sound to cancel the undesired noise inside the incubator. To address the challenges of developing this innovative ANC system for infant incubators, the specific aims and research methods are designed as follows: 1. Explore specific ANC algorithms for infant incubators. A multiple-channel hybrid ANC algorithms will be designed to cancel the noise generated inside, as well as outside of the incubator. Significant efforts will focus on developing advanced nonlinear algorithms for reducing impulse-like noises that are common in an NICU environment. Audio signals such as intrauterine sounds, music, or a natural sound will be integrated with the ANC system to make the incubator environment more comfortable for infants. 2. Explore a carbon nanotube based transparent thin film speaker that is used as the actuator of the ANC system. The thin film speaker is extremely compact to fit in the space-limited incubator, and is completely transparent so that caregivers can clearly watch the infant from outside of the incubator. The distributed thin film speaker can also increase the size of quiet zone generated by the ANC system. 3. Demonstrate the performance of the developed ANC system in a real incubator. The real-time performance of the ANC system will be evaluated by measuring noise levels inside the incubator with and without ANC for noise reduction. This proposed research (R03 grant) will demonstrate the feasibility of ANC system for the prevention of hearing loss of infant incubator graduates. Based on the pilot data from this research, future R01 grant application will focus on the animal tests and clinical tests of the ANC system in the real NICU environments. Relevance: This project will develop a new approach of noise reduction for infant incubators using active noise cancellation system and carbon nanotube based transparent thin film speaker. This research will prevent hearing loss to incubator residents by reducing the noise level inside infant incubators.