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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P027075/1
Title: Passively Powered Non-invasive Human Body Sensing on Bio-Degradable Conformal Substrates
Principal Investigator: Batchelor, Professor J
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Age UK Great Ormond Street Hospital MIMIT
University of Manchester, The
Department: Sch of Engineering & Digital Arts
Organisation: University of Kent
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 May 2017 Ends: 30 April 2020 Value (£): 649,398
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design & Testing Technology Manufacturing Machine & Plant
RF & Microwave Technology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Healthcare Manufacturing
Related Grants:
EP/P02713X/1
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
03 Mar 2017 EPSRC Manufacturing Prioritisation Panel March 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Over the last decade excellent non-invasive sensing platforms have become available for capturing real-time health and lifestyle data, with the fitbit and Apple Watch being well known examples. However, current 'wearable' sensors all have major limitations: they connect to the body using straps and similar which do not maintain a good connection over long time periods; they have high power consumptions meaning the device must be taken off and recharged, at best, every couple of days; they contribute a significant amount to electronic waste. They are thus far from realising their true potential. This challenge is recognised by the EPSRC, with 'Disruptive technologies for sensing & analysis' being a core part of the 2015 Healthcare Technologies strategy. We propose to tackle this challenge by advancing novel material manufacturing approaches to realise next generation 'conformal' sensor nodes. This will make a disruptive next generation sensor platform for the very long term monitoring of a number of body parameters (motion, electrophysiological and temperature data) which is very different to current bio-sensing approaches.

Our novel manufacturing will enable sensors which are:

- Mounted on a conformal substrate, attaching directly to the skin without a strap, and maintaining contact for several days at a time.

- Manufactured using inkjet printing to allow minimal waste and responsive manufacturing, potentially tailoring each sensor to each person. Graphene nanoparticle based inks will replace current silver nanoparticle inks which, due to the inert nature of graphene, avoids the electronic waste issues associated with silver inks.

- Tailored with new ink and substrate formulations so that both the graphene ink and conformal substrate are 'transient'. That is, they work for a period of time and then naturally decompose into safe, inert and easily removed components, enabling easy use and disposal.

- 3D in nature by using 'popup' structures manufactured on pre-stressed substrates. This will allow 'actuated antennas', coupling the mechanical and electromagnetic properties of a 3D antenna in order to allow simultaneous sensing and transmission using the antenna component, significantly reducing the device size as conventional instrumentation can be removed.

- Ultra low power using a novel switching strategy to allow secure digital transmission over an RFID wireless link without the need for a dedicated, high power, analogue-to-digital converter microchip.

- Increased in wireless powering range, by devising reduced size epidermal antennas that exploit magnetically coupled loops in tattoo antennas with under 3 times the surface area of current approaches, reducing ink use for digital fabrication.

- Optimized for robustness to motion interference, allowing the collection of high quality signals in real-world, out-of-the-lab situations.

- Suitable for scale-up manufacturing with roll-to-roll and/or sheet fed printing of key elements, integrating with pick and place capabilities.

- Integrated into initial complete system demonstrators which will be showcased to our partners, covering the use of long term sensor nodes with people who are elderly and with children.

Collectively these represent a step change beyond 'wearable' devices available today. Our new sensors will be customisable battery-less RFID tags that can operate more than a metre from a powered reader, stay attached for many days at a time, and with a controlled lifetime set by the transient nature of the manufacturing. At this early stage we do not propose to target any one clinical application area, but rather to make the next generation of technologies for conformal on-body sensor nodes that collect longitudinal information relevant to a number of disease areas. We will work with our partners through pathways to impact activities to maximise the possibility of exposure to relevant end users in healthcare scenarios.

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Organisation Website: http://www.kent.ac.uk