When a diver breathes air or other special breathing mixtures under pressure, inert gasses such as Nitrogen are dissolved in their body tissues. If a diver were to ascend rapidly, the dissolved gasses would come out of solution, forming bubbles that lead to decompression sickness, sometimes referred to as 'the bends’.
Nowadays, divers keep track of the time spent at given depths via a dive computer, which employs an algorithm to compute an ascent schedule, prescribing stops at given depths to allow the inert gasses to come out of solution slowly. The specific schedule depends on the particular dive profile, and the process is modelled within a generalised theoretical framework that is not diver-specific. Sometimes, decompression sickness occurs even when the followed dive profile is not expected to lead to such an outcome.
The Personal Decompression Monitor (PerDeMon) project seeks to establish a link between measurable physiological data and inert gas loading. A state-of-the-art device carrying a specialised sensor which is attached to the diver will yield real-time data that can be used to tailor the decompression schedule to the individual diver in order to maximise safety. The device will be tested extensively at all stages of development, with final trials envisaged during actual dives, where a prototype will be tested and validated in tandem with a commercial decompression computer.
The project sees a collaboration between scientists from the Department of Physics (including members of the Electromagnetics group) and the Institute of Space Sciences & Astronomy (ISSA) at the University of Malta, the Hyperbaric Unit at Mater Dei Hospital, and private industry.
The key researchers in this project are Dr Joseph Caruana (Dept. of Physics & ISSA), Prof. Charles Sammut (Dept. of Physics), Dr Lourdes Farrugia (Dept. of Physics), Dr Lyubisa Matity (Mater Dei), Dr Andrea DeMarco (ISSA), Dr Iman Ferhat (Dept. of Physics), and Dr Julian Bonello (Dept. of Physics).
PerDeMon is funded through the Technology Development Programme (TDP) of the Malta Council for Science and Technology.