Heartbeat Sensor – Working & Application

What do you mean by Heartbeat?

A person’s heartbeat is the sound of the valves in his/her’s heart contracting or expanding as they force blood from one region to another. The number of times the heart beats per minute (BPM), is the heartbeat rate and the beat of the heart that can be felt in any artery that lies close to the skin is the pulse.

Two Ways to Measure a Heartbeat

  • Manual Way: Heartbeat can be checked manually by checking one’s pulses at two locations- wrist (the radial pulse) and the neck (carotid pulse). The procedure is to place the two fingers (index and middle finger) on the wrist (or neck below the windpipe) and count the number of pulses for 30 seconds and then multiplying that number by 2 to get the heartbeat rate. However, pressure should be applied minimum and also fingers should be moved up and down till the pulse is felt.
  • Using a sensor: Heart Beat can be measured based on optical power variation as light is scattered or absorbed during its path through the blood as the heartbeat changes.

Principle of Heartbeat Sensor

The heartbeat sensor is based on the principle of photoplethysmography. It measures the change in volume of blood through any organ of the body which causes a change in the light intensity through that organ (avascular region). In the case of applications where the heart pulse rate is to be monitored, the timing of the pulses is more important. The flow of blood volume is decided by the rate of heart pulses and since light is absorbed by the blood, the signal pulses are equivalent to the heartbeat pulses.

There are two types of photoplethysmography:

Transmission: Light emitted from the light-emitting device is transmitted through any vascular region of the body like earlobe and received by the detector.

Reflection: Light emitted from the light-emitting device is reflected by the regions.


HeartWorking of a Heartbeat Sensor

The basic heartbeat sensor consists of a light-emitting diode and a detector like a light detecting resistor or a photodiode. The heartbeat pulses cause a variation in the flow of blood to different regions of the body.  When tissue is illuminated with the light source, i.e. light emitted by the led, it either reflects (a finger tissue) or transmits the light (earlobe). Some of the light is absorbed by the blood and the transmitted or the reflected light is received by the light detector. The amount of light absorbed depends on the blood volume in that tissue. The detector output is in the form of the electrical signal and is proportional to the heartbeat rate.

This signal is a DC signal relating to the tissues and the blood volume and the AC component synchronous with the heartbeat and caused by pulsatile changes in arterial blood volume is superimposed on the DC signal. Thus the major requirement is to isolate that AC component as it is of prime importance.

HeartbeatTo achieve the task of getting the AC signal, the output from the detector is first filtered using a 2 stage HP-LP circuit and is then converted to digital pulses using a comparator circuit or using simple ADC. The digital pulses are given to a microcontroller for calculating the heartbeat rate, given by the formula-

BPM(Beats per minute) = 60*f

Where f is the pulse frequency

Practical Heartbeat Sensor

Practical heartbeat Sensor examples are Heart Rate Sensor (Product No PC-3147). It consists of an infrared led and an LDR embedded onto a clip-like structure. The clip is attached to the organ (earlobe or the finger) with the detector part on the flesh.

Heartbeat senAnother example is TCRT1000, having 4 pins-

Pin1: To give the supply voltage to the LED

Pin2 and 3 are grounded. Pin 4 is the output. Pin 1 is also the enable pin and pulling it high turns the LED on and the sensor starts working. It is embedded on a wearable device that can be worn on the wrist and the output can be sent wirelessly (through Bluetooth) to the computer for processing.

Hearbeat sensorApplication Developing your Heartbeat Sensor System

A basic Heartbeat Sensor system can also be built using basic components like an LDR, comparator IC LM358, and a Microcontroller as given below

basic Heartbeat Sensor system

As described above regarding the principle of a heartbeat sensor, when the finger tissue or the earlobe tissue is illuminated using a light source, the light is transmitted after getting modulated i.e. a part getting absorbed by the blood and the rest being transmitted. This modulated light is received by the light detector.

Here a Light Dependent Resistor (LDR) is used as a light detector. It works on the principle that when light falls on the resistor, its resistance changes. As the light intensity increases, the resistance decreases. Thus the voltage drop across the resistor decreases.

Here a comparator is used which compares the output voltage from the LDR to that of the threshold voltage. The threshold voltage is the voltage drop across the LDR when the light with fixed intensity, from the light source, falls directly on it. The inverting terminal of the comparator LM358 is connected to the potential divider arrangement which is set to the threshold voltage and the noninverting terminal is connected to the LDR. When human tissue is illuminated using the light source, the intensity of the light reduces. As this reduced light intensity falls on the LDR, the resistance increases and as a result of the voltage drop increases. When the voltage drop across the LDR or the noninverting input exceeds that of the inverting input, a logic high signal is developed at the output of the comparator and in case voltage drop being lesser a logic low output is developed. Thus the output is a series of pulses. These pulses can be fed to the Microcontroller which accordingly processes the information to get the heartbeat rate and this is displayed on the Display interfaced with the Microcontroller.

Video Explanation on Heart Beat Sensor Circuit Diagram


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