Coin-Sized Digital Sensor to Monitor Health

Scientists from the University of Hong Kong's (HKU) Faculty of Engineering have created a coin-sized device that can sense weak electrochemical signals and be utilized for individualized health monitoring and evaluation of disorders like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mental health. The work was published on the cover of the journal of Analytical Chemistry.

Coin-Sized Digital Sensor to Monitor Health.
The invention has been featured on the cover of Analytical Chemistry. Image Credit: Analytical Chemistry

The Personalized Electronic Reader for Electrochemical Transistors, or PERfECT System, is the smallest system of its kind, measuring 1.5 cm × 1.5 cm × 0.2 cm and weighing only 0.4 g. It is easily wearable and can be used as a patch or watch integration to enable continuous monitoring of biosignals, including blood sugar levels and antibody concentrations.

Our wearable system is tiny, soft, and imperceptible to wearers, and it can do continuous monitoring of our body condition. These features mean it has the potential to revolutionize healthcare technology.

Dr. Shiming Zhang, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, The University of Hong Kong

Dr. Zhang also heads the HKU WISE (wearable, smart, and soft electronics) Research Group to progress the system.

Due to their water stability and excellent sensitivity at a minimal operating voltage (millivolts), organic electrochemical transistors are largely viewed as the forthcoming generation of sensing technology. However, up until now, they needed a miniaturized wireless system to function within.

That niche is fulfilled by the PERfECT wearable system. With a data-sampling rate of up to 200-kilo samples per second, it can accurately characterize the electrochemical transistor’s entire performance, providing performance comparable to expensive, bulky commercial equipment.

However, the cost is merely 10% of the commercial price. It may also measure the outputs of other varieties of low-voltage transistors, like electrolyte-gated field effect transistors and high-k dielectric-gated thin-film transistors, and act as a miniature electrochemical station for wearable technology.

The system could be used straight away in numerous low-voltage transistor-based wearable systems. SESIC, a start-up business founded by Dr. Zhang’s team, was created to make the technology commercially available.

We have been able to develop the PERfECT system because of the unique, interdisciplinary culture in the HKU WISE Research Group, which includes researchers from electrical engineering, applied chemistry, biomedical engineering, microelectronics and software engineering. I have also made it a point to recruit young, promising undergraduate and postgraduate students to our team.

 Dr. Shiming Zhang, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, the University of Hong Kong

Dr. Zhang has been working on wearable technologies for digital healthcare since 2013, when he was a Ph.D. student.

The WISE students have received numerous accolades for their inventive developments in wearable health tech, such as the Materials Research Society (MRS) Best Presentation Award (2021 fall), the IEEE Engineering in Medicine Award, and the Hong Kong Academy of Engineering Sciences (HKAES) 2021–22 University Pitch Competition on Global Grand Challenges.

They met the criteria as one of only five teams from China for the International Student Competition of the fifth Global Grand Challenges Summit (winning twice, 2021 and 2022).

The vision for WISE is to promote the transition from ‘hospital-centric’ to ‘human-centric’ healthcare by developing next-generation wearable, intelligent and soft electronics technologies –hence the name WISE,” Professor Zhang said.

Journal Reference:

Tian, X., et al. (2022) Pushing OECTs toward Wearable: Development of a Miniaturized Analytical Control Unit for Wireless Device Characterization. Analytical Chemistry.


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