Remote, wireless monitoring of physiological functions and structural performance in real time has long been a goal of many manufacturing industries. Achievement of that goal is now a step closer to reality with the announcement today of an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) award to FlexTech Alliance of San Jose, Calif.
The Alliance has been selected to launch a new manufacturing consortium which will operate at the junction of nanotechnology, biotechnology, additive manufacturing, and flexible electronics. Bringing together world-class researchers and building prototype monitoring devices are the new nano-bio manufacturing consortium's primary goals.
Under this $5.5M cost shared program, AFRL will provide $2.2M in funding and the consortium partners will provide the balance of the award. Lockheed Martin, GE and DuPont Teijin Films are among FlexTech Alliance's 20 consortium partners, along with researchers from the University of Cincinnati, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and other leading universities.
Nano-bio manufacturing is the integration of multiple functions, such as sensing, communications, and power - all on a flexible electronics platform. In the medical field, for example, it could enable a small electronic patch to wirelessly monitor human performance. In another example, sensors could be embedded into aircraft surfaces to gauge stress and conduct real-time analysis of structural integrity. Global Industry Analysts, Inc. a market research firm, forecasts the worldwide nanobiotechnology market to reach $6B by 2017 driven by rising levels of government R&D funding, an increasing role played by venture capitalists, and technology advancements.
"San Jose continues to grow as a center for developing new innovative technologies in electronics, bio-medical and nanotechnology research," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose). "My congratulations to the U.S. Air Force as they partner with FlexTech Alliance in a joint effort to help grow this industry, an effort which also will create jobs here in our district."
The Air Force's initial interest is in monitoring pilots operating aircraft, as well as their support personnel, but companies in the broader health-care field are also eyeing this new technology for its commercial implications. All envision a future where incredibly lightweight, flexible electronics can instantaneously detect and transmit critical information.
"Our mission is to deliver technology to the Air Force to monitor military personnel. While the Air Force's interests are obvious, real-time monitoring of the chronically infirm or elderly, for example, is an eventual commercial application, too," stated Michael Ciesinski , CEO of FlexTech Alliance.
The nano-bio manufacturing consortium will provide shared assets to help companies and universities gain access to cutting-edge capabilities and equipment, and also help educate and train students and workers in advanced manufacturing skills. Consortium start-up is expected in the April 2013 timeframe.
FlexTech Alliance's 20 consortium partners include GE, Lockheed Martin, DuPont Teijin Films and PARC along with researchers from Binghamton University, Cornell University, John Hopkins University, Princeton University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at San Diego, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and other leading universities.