Heat and motion-powered wearable electronics for improved health – CES 2015


♪ MUSIC ♪ [CROWD] TOM SNYDER: Our overall focus is on wearable electronics and we’re trying to remove the battery from those electronics so that when you’re wearing a device, the device is always powered by your body heat, it’s powered by your body motion and you can do things like vigilant health monitoring. You can collect data and help people understand how to manage their wellness. Here we have silver nanowires that have been embedded in a material called PDMS. It’s a stretchable material. You see it stretches, it bends, it can be very comfortable against the skin. This particular geometry is an interdigitated electrode for hydration monitoring where if you put this on the body, you connect it to some electronics and it can be used to understand how much hydration is in the body at different depths under the skin. This same material can also be used in other applications. So this is a silver nanowire embedded material in the pattern of an antenna. A possible on body application of this would be to put it say across a knuckle. If you want to understand how someone is moving, based on how it stretches and changes, you can do a strain measurement and understand say maybe for an arthritic patient what their range of motion is. The research that we’re doing really breaks into four main focus areas. One is energy harvesting. How do you use the body as a power supply and if you’ve got good power supply you also need to match that to the load so very low power electronics. So as an example, this is a system on chip that’s been developed at the University of Virginia and with collaborators at University of Michigan. And this chip can be used for electro-cardiogram monitoring. Most people are familiar with Bluetooth low energy. That’s considered one of the leading low power standards. This chip operates about a thousand times lower power than Bluetooth low energy but it still can transmit three to five meters. So low power electronics. And then sensors, things that can do bioelectric sensing, biochemical sensing, gas sensing, understanding your environment. And then the last real research area for us is is this integration and form factor. What does it mean to build something into a stretchable material, something that you can just put through the laundry and it still works. Things that can be used in internet of things, applications that are other, maybe not health related but applicable uses of these technologies in unique, novel form factors. This shirt has got some screen printed special ink that we’ve developed that can be screen printed onto the shirt. It’s very stretchable. In the screen printed form, it’s rigid but you can heat transfer it onto the shirt. The green layer is just a protective coating so that the shirt is launderable. It can go through numerous wash cycles and still operate correctly. At the ends of this particular device would be electrodes. So this is another prototype where we’ve got electrodes that through on one side would contact to the body. On the other side could contact to your electronics. And those can be connected to this total system to create for example, an electrocardiogram monitoring t-shirt. So NSF has been fantastic, right. We could not have started this effort without the seed funding, very large seed funding from the National Science Foundation and it provides a great opportunity to engage. When you first engage with a company, we need to be able to get to the point where we can show the value of the relationship and the research without immediately just saying, before we do anything else, I need some money, right. So it gives an opportunity for companies to realize we can leverage this public support of research and then the companies also financially contribute. It truly is a partnership but without that kind of first step, this would be perhaps a dream that would be very, very hard to really pull into a real coalition.

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