The use of biosensors attached to the body for health monitoring is not new. However, antennas that enable such devices to be linked together efficiently on a patient’s body without wires are currently too uncomfortable to wear for a long time because they need to be large in order to maximise the strength of the signal being received. They can be reduced in size but this leads to the antenna being less efficient, meaning that the battery powering the device has to be recharged more frequently.
Experts in antennas and bioelectromagnetics at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), have developed new types of antenna that get round these limitations.
Their work could revolutionise the way patient care is provided, making unnecessary visits for tests and check-ups a thing of the past. Instead, biosensors could gather data on heart rate, respiration, posture, gait etc, transmitting this information by radio signal to a control unit also on the patient’s body. The data could then be accessed by doctors via the internet or mobile phone, for example.
The new types of antenna are the first in the world to deliberately harness the so-called ‘creeping wave’ effect. With a conventional on-body antenna the majority of the signal is transmitted either away from the patient or inwards, where it is absorbed by the patient’s body which weakens the signal. The rest of the signal, though, hugs the skin’s surface and ‘creeps’ round the body where it is picked up by the control unit.
However, only a small amount of the signal behaves in this ‘creeping’ way and so its overall strength has to be increased to allow enough of it to reach the control unit. Although traditional antenna designs can be used, they are physically large and typically protrude up to 4cm from the body surface for the frequency bands used by systems such as WiFi. Reducing the size leads to poor system efficiency.
The new antennas developed at QUB solve these problems. They are specifically designed to accentuate the creeping wave effect by maximising the amount of signal radiated out to the antenna’s side, rather than inwards and outwards. They are up to 50 times more efficient than previously available designs of the same dimensions. Due to the lower power requirement resulting from this step change in on-body performance and efficiency, the QUB team has succeeded in reducing antenna thickness from 34mm to less than 5mm thick for their new patch antenna, for example.
The antennas can therefore be fitted almost anywhere on the patient without causing significant inconvenience and are sufficiently low-profile to be incorporated into clothing or worn as part of a wound dressing. One QUB design is now the subject of a patent application, with more anticipated.
The unique design of the new antennas could unlock the full potential of emerging ‘wireless body area network’ (WBAN) technology. A WBAN is a network of biosensors attached to different parts of a patient’s body. Patients wearing a WBAN could carry on with their normal lives – the doctor remotely monitoring the data gathered by the network would simply contact them to arrange appointments when needed.
“The UK leads the world in the development of wearable communications including WBAN antennas,” says Dr William Scanlon, who is leading the QUB project. “With EPSRC funding, our group at QUB, along with other related projects at the University of Birmingham, Queen Mary College and elsewhere, could help unleash the full potential of WBAN technology. We could change the way that a range of illnesses, injuries and conditions are monitored, perhaps within five years”.
Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano
20.10.2017 | Brown University
New software speeds origami structure designs
12.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology
Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
23.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
23.10.2017 | Life Sciences
23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine