A research initiative led by researchers at the Osaka University in association with Joanneum Research has led to the development of wireless health monitoring patches. The device uses embedded piezoelectric nanogenerators to self-power obtained from harvested biochemical energy. Beyond this, the work may lead to the development of autonomous health sensors and batter-free wearable electronic devices.
Meanwhile, with the increasing popularity of wearable technology and smart sensors, the problem of powering these devices is a real one. While these devices may require low to moderate energy, the need of even wires or batteries becomes burdensome and inconvenient. This requires energy harvesting methods. Also, the ability of integrated health monitors to use ambient motion to power as well as activate sensors will favor their deployment in doctor’s offices.
To address this, an international team of researchers have invented new ultraflexible patches. Structurally, these ultrathin patches comprise a ferroelectric polymer that can sense a patient’s blood pressure and pulse, and at the same time power themselves from normal movements.
Interestingly, to start making the patch, a substrate only one micron thick used. A strong electric field used, wherein ferroelectric crystalline domains in a copolymer aligned. This format allowed the sample to have a large electric dipole moment. Importantly, due to the extreme efficiency of piezoelectric effect to convert natural motion into small electric voltages, the device responds rapidly against strain or pressure changes. Consequently, the voltage generated can either be converted into signals for medical sensors or directly used to harvest energy.
“The e-health patches may find use as part of the scanning for lifestyle-related health conditions such as signs of stress, heart diseases, and sleep apnea,” concluded the first author of the study.