This study presents findings in the terahertz (THz) frequency spectrum for non-contact cardiac sensing applications. Cardiac pulse information is simultaneously extracted using THz waves based on the established principles in electronics and optics. The first fundamental principle is micro-Doppler motion effect. This motion based method, primarily using coherent phase information from the radar receiver, has been widely exploited in microwave frequency bands and has recently found popularity in millimeter waves (mmWave) for breathe rate and heart rate detection. The second fundamental principle is reflectance based optical measurement using infrared or visible light. The variation in the light reflection is proportional to the volumetric change of the heart, often referred as photoplethysmography (PPG). Herein, we introduce the concept of terahertz-wave-plethysmography (TPG), which detects blood volume changes in the upper dermis tissue layer by measuring the reflectance of THz waves, similar to the existing remote PPG (rPPG) principle. The TPG principle is justified by scientific deduction, electromagnetic wave simulations and carefully designed experimental demonstrations. Additionally, pulse measurements from various peripheral body parts of interest (BOI), palm, inner elbow, temple, fingertip and forehead, are demonstrated using a wideband THz sensing system developed by the Terahertz Electronics Lab at Arizona State University, Tempe. Among the BOIs under test, it is found that the measurements from forehead BOI gives the best accuracy with mean heart rate (HR) estimation error 1.51 beats per minute (BPM) and standard deviation 1.08 BPM. The results validate the feasibility of TPG for direct pulse monitoring. A comparative study on pulse sensitivity is conducted between TPG and rPPG. The results indicate that the TPG contains more pulsatile information from the forehead BOI than that in the rPPG signals in regular office lighting condition and thus generate better heart rate estimation statistic in the form of empirical cumulative distribution function of HR estimation error. Last but not least, TPG penetrability test for covered skin is demonstrated using two types of garment materials commonly used in daily life.
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