The NSF‘s ASSIST center, based at NC State, is using nanotechnology to build clinically accurate, self-powered health monitoring technologies.
The team, led by Veena Misra, is developing tiny devices harvesting energy from body heat (which creates thermal energy) and body motion (which creates mechanical energy). They can be used on various areas of the body.
- a piezoelectric-coated film, on nickel foil, encapsulated in kapton tape, that harvests energy from elbow movement
- a flexible wristband made of polymers integrated with a TEG, low-power chips, and a low-power radio.
- a wireless wrist platform that measures arterial blood pressure and blood oxygen saturation, and can track airborne pollutants.
- small, wearable sensors that monitor a person’s immediate environment and vital signs to understand asthma triggers.
The optimal sensor position is a person’s pulse points, where blood vessels are close to the skin’s surface. Textiles are ideal for measurements, because they conform to the body and provide the thermal insulation to maintain a temperature difference. The researchers are trying to interconnect electronics from multiple garment locations so that they can communicate with each other.
ApplySci believes that a continuous power source is key to the effectiveness of wearable health sensors. ASSIST, IMEC/Holst, the University of Virginia, and others, seem to be providing the basis for this.