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Wearable multiplexed biomedical electrodes

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - WEARPLEX (Wearable multiplexed biomedical electrodes)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-08-31

WEARPLEX is a multidisciplinary research and innovation action with the overall aim to integrate printed electronics with flexible and wearable textile-based biomedical multi-pad electrodes. It aims to answer the growing need for userfriendly electrodes for pervasive measurement of electrophysiological signals and application of electrical stimulation. It focuses on the development of the printable electronics and manufacturing processes for stretchable textile based multi-pad electrodes with integrated logic circuits that enable a significant increase in the number of electrode pads (channels) and facilitate the creation of new products in the sectors of medical electronics and life-style.

The advanced printed electronics integrated in WEARPLEX electrodes will allow the individual pads to be connected in arbitrary configurations to the output leads of the electrode. Therefore, the pads will be flexibly organized into several virtual electrodes of arbitrary position, shape and size that can be connected to any standard multi-channel recording and stimulation system. In addition, software methods will be developed for automatic calibration of these virtual electrodes, to detect stimulation/recording hotspots and adjust the virtual electrodes accordingly.

Therefore, the WEARPLEX project will lead to a new generation of smart electrodes that will be able to adapt simultaneously to the user (wearable and stretchable garment), recording/stimulation scenario (movement type and target muscles) and recording/stimulation system (number of channels). This is a paradigm shift in designing the recording and stimulation systems, as the switching electronics is shifted from the custom-made stimulator/recording device to the smart electrode, leading to a universal solution compatible with any system.
A public webpage has been set up for the project, hosted by the University of Southampton so that it can remain hosted there after the project is complete - This website contains general information on the project and links to the social media accounts for the project so that the public can follow our progress. During this Period 1 of the project many of these are effectively place holders for the project until we have a clearer picture on the Intellectual Property generated from the project; thus, reducing the chances of accidental dissemination jeopardising potential patents and exploitation routes. As the project has progressed, dissemination information (e.g. papers and presentations) have been added to the site with open access rights and part of our Open Research Data Pilot commitment. Future events will also be advertised, and their subsequent content will also be displayed on the site, for example the year 1 workshop has a dedicated content page. A subscription service has been added to the site and will be used for the forthcoming Beta workshop to attract further interest in the project.

21 deliverable documents have been produced so far in Period 1 (Jan 2019 – Aug 2020) of the project and 5 project milestones have been met, these are:

Milestones occurring during Period 1 of the project were:
MS1 - Initial system specifications exist (Achieved M3)
MS2 - Alpha stage prototypes exist (Achieved M9)
MS3 – First stakeholders workshop (Achieved M9)
MS4 – Computer simulations for electrodes (Achieved M18)
MS5 – Materials developed for the printed applications (Achieved M20)

The key results from this period are:
- The WEARPLEX concept has been fully specified in Alpha and Beta prototypes.
- Alpha prototypes for EMG and FES electrode systems printed on PET and fabric have been demonstrated to the scientific community.
- Simulation models for the printed transistors and skin/electrode interface have been developed.
- Optimal materials for all the printed layers have been identified.
- Significant reduction in the size of the stimulation and control unit.
- Identification of the best compromise for flexible but smooth printing on fabric.
- Roll to roll fabrication equipment suitable for manufacturing WEARPLEX electrodes tested.
The WEARPLEX electrode system will allow the stimulation of muscles and recording of their activity from the same wearable device. The system will be integrated into a textile to make it comfortable to wear, easy to set up and allow it to be used over a prolonged period.

The WEARPLEX electrode will allow users and clinicians to produce data outputs suitable for use in a number of applications; from rehabilitation to leisure activities.

Developments for the OECT printed transistor circuitry and the printed fabric/electronics interface investigations have led to peer reviewed journal and conference publications showing progress beyond the state of the art.

Additional developments on the EMG/FES selection algorithms, printed electrode structures and efficacy of skin/electrode interface materials are the subject of papers currently in progress and will be further examples of the state of the art developments driven by the WEARPLEX project.

The level of control on the stimulation area and intensity, and the recording sensitivity offered by the full WEARPLEX system represents a paradigm shift in capabilities for both these fields individually and in gesture control and rehabilitation when combined.

The development of the Beta prototypes is ongoing and will demonstrate the technology to the e-textile and medical communities in Period 2 via an online webinar and 2 exhibition events in 2021.