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Soft intelligence epidermal communication platform

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SINTEC (Soft intelligence epidermal communication platform)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-06-30

For body worn sensors and actuators, stretchable electronics provide superior compliance and conformability, offering more comfort and potential for better performance. To allow for more advanced, high-cost systems, the systems should be possible to use multiple times. To allow for a more generic technology, it should be possible to assemble standard flexible and rigid modules and devices in the stretchable carrier. However, today there are no commercially available manufacturing technology capable of addressing all those aspects together. As a response, the SINTEC project focuses on a novel stretchable digital printed circuit board (PCB technology), and on its application in smart wireless patches for sport performance and clinical physiology and in a novel intra-body communication technology, which uses the body fat as a structure to guide the modulated high-frequency signals (so called Fat-IBC.
The SINTEC project will provide a platform for better health and fitness, better life for our ageing community, and new products and services for European companies and health services.
The overall objects are:
• To demonstrate manufacturing of large area rigid-stretch PCB technology stretchable substrate and liquid alloy interconnects;
• To demonstrate and compare the advantages of compliant and stretchable multi-use smart patches for Fat-IBC and low-energy Bluetooth communication;
• To demonstrate the advantages of compliant and stretchable multi-use smart patches for electrophysiological sensing;
• To validate the large area rigid-stretch PCB integration technology in laboratory;
• To demonstrate possible application in clinical environment and in sports performance evaluation.
The initial work was to initiate and inform the partners about the project, and to align their different objectives with the initial research on the rigid modules and its application in stretchable PCBs and in the novel Fat-IBC platform for the foreseen clinical and sport environments. A thorough study has been performed that helped to identify important areas, where the use of stretchable PCB and Fat-IBC technologies can increase the benefit of current solutions. The first prototypes on smart patches with Bluetooth technology have been delivered and electrophysiological patches have been made for initial evaluations. The initial results indicate that those non-optimized sensor patches already meet the minimum demands set by the standardized protocol for clinically applied medical sensors. On technology, the ‘handicraft’ process protocols have been updated and fine-tuned for the new sensor patches. A novel dispensing step has been introduced with remarkable advantages. There are good indications that in future the first substrate layer may be made as an on-roll tape product that can be made outside the stretchable PCB fab. In addition, the technology shift to digital printing has been initiated with good first results.
Progress beyond state of the art during the first 18 months:
• Microfluidic and low resistance stretchable PCB technology with liquid alloy has allowed for modules and components of standard rigid technology, creating a rigid-stretch PCB solution.
• Novel antennas and interfaces technologies for Fat-IBC and preliminary artificial tissue emulating phantoms have allowed for experimental setups, enabling new Fat-IBC tests for reliability and security.
Expected results until the end of the project:
• SINTEC will demonstrate the first stretchable long-array wireless sensor patches for ECG, using its novel large-area rigid-stretch digital PCB manufacturing platform.
• Stretchable electrophysiological arrays based on the adhesive soft and compliant rigid-stretch PCB technology will allow for dynamic adaptation, which secure good contact to the skin at a fixed position also for large arrays. Permeable and adhesive elastomer patches will allow for heavy sweating without loss of contact or the patch being uncomfortable.
• Fat-IBC will provide an energy efficient secure connectivity with high bandwidth and low loss. The use of soft and stretchable patches will ease application and give more robust and stable communication.
• Demonstration in clinical and sports performance applications will show the advantages over current state of the art technology.
The main advantages should be in comfort and that the sensors do not move so much relative to the skin. Hence, its major impact will not be in replacing other wearables but rather in providing novel capability. Wearables are considered to give immense impact on society with new intelligence support, augmenting life in, e.g. nomadic healthcare, fitness, medical technology, social networking, and entertainment. The related increase of information that can be collected about physiological status of a subject, has a relevant impact in several fields, ranging from healthcare to sports and fitness, especially as part of big data-oriented intelligence systems.
The major potential impacts are:
a) Manufacturability and PCB manufacturing equipment providers: The SINTEC project will inspire those companies in the realm of electronics production to open their eyes to the necessary investments in deposition technology for both stretchable insulator materials, as well as for stretchable/liquid conductive materials.
b) Fat-IBC and electrophysiological sensors: The impact on society by improved small and unobtrusive hardware for broadband and cyber secure IBC is broad. For wearable electrophysiological sensors, SINTEC aims to contribute dramatically in the arising of the new generation of wearable sensors: thanks to the technology leaps targeted in the project, a new generation of sensors addressing not only the electrical activity of the heart, but also the complete haemodynamic assessment of the cardiovascular system will be enabled. Furthermore, the improved comfort and artefact immunity expected by the solutions developed in the project will contribute to speed up the diffusion of wearables and to drive the changes in the society. Fat-IBC provides wearable and implantable medical care solution with high bandwidth, robustness, low power consumption, and security.
c) Sports: One of the aims of the project is to strengthen the competitiveness of the Östersund region in several sectors, by providing a unique wearable technology platform for Internet of Sports (IoS) well suited for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Since mass often follows class, role models as elite athletes are important. The link between high-performance elite, fitness enthusiasts and general public (youths as well as elders) has impact on public health, especially in preventive health. The sports sector has been designated by the EU as a development area with great potential to contribute to achieving the goals of the H2020 strategy.
d) Healthcare: An aging population and poor health of people increase the demand for constant monitoring. Limited existing medical resources and expensive conventional medical attention are unable to meet these requirements. Hence, it will become necessary to replace the conventional health care system with a novel, efficient and economic one. Wearable medical sensor technology will give a significant contribution in tackling these huge societal challenges.