The Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium (NBMC), an industry-academia partnership with the United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), has awarded funding for a project proposed by Binghamton University to develop electronics and biometric sensor platforms for human performance monitoring (HPM).
The $425,000 project, with contributions from the University of California, Berkeley, and electronics packaging firm i3 Electronics, Inc. (Endicott, N.Y.), is scheduled for completion in early 2015.
The electronics platform includes a flexible substrate, battery, processor, WiFi communications and interface electronics. The biometric sensor platform includes temperature and electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors, allowing calculation of the wearer's heart rate. ECG signals from human subjects and from an archive of human ECG recordings (from both healthy individuals and those with clinical conditions) will be utilized to test the sensor electrodes and onboard electronics. The processed data will be used to calculate heart rate, and data transmitted to a local network will be compared to the input signals. These tests will then be repeated on 10 units produced in the manufacturing run, all of which will be used to transmit ECGs, heart rate and temperature from human subjects. A second LED-based oximeter sensor will also be evaluated for the detection of blood oxygen levels and heart rate.
Before establishing final manufacturing protocols and executing the manufacturing run, the team will fabricate and performance-test the integrated platforms to determine whether the HPM solution will be fabricated from electronics and sensor platforms on separate substrates laminated together, or printed and assembled sequentially on the same substrate. Variables evaluated in making this determination will include the quality of "printed" gold electrodes and electrical conductors, substrate bond quality, platform power consumption and peak current demand.
"Package form factor and quality play a vital role in creating robust, wearable HPM solutions that are viable for high-volume manufacturing," said Raj Rai, i3 Electronics' chief technology officer. "We are excited to leverage our expertise in board fabrication, packaging, assembly and test for projects such as this that have the potential to enable fundamental improvements in people's everyday lives."
Dr. Benjamin J. Leever, AFRL Program Manager for Flexible Materials & Devices, stated, "Wearable HPM sensors have the potential to provide invaluable insight into the state of individual airmen in both operational and medical scenarios. Developing and demonstrating an integrated biometric sensor platform is an essential milestone toward realizing this important goal."
Binghamton University has primary responsibility for project coordination, systems integration, circuit design and testing, and HPM performance testing. UC Berkeley is responsible for printing and verifying the sensor platforms, while i3 Electronics handles fabricating on flexible substrates, component assembly, manufacturing protocols and the 10-unit manufacturing run for final performance testing. Binghamton's Dr. James N. Turner, research scientist in the Small Scale Systems Integration & Packaging Center, is the project lead, with UC Berkeley represented by Ana Claudia Arias, associate professor, Dept. of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. The AFRL program manager is Laura S. Rea.
Dr. Turner noted, "As a New York State Center of Excellence, Binghamton University is proud to have this project selected for the NBMC's efforts to optimize HPM systems for the US Air Force. Partnering with i3 Electronics and UC Berkeley has allowed us a unique opportunity both to collaborate with colleagues at a prestigious institution on the opposite coast, as well as to 'keep it local' by working with an Endicott firm known for excellence in electronics packaging. The project also leverages Binghamton University's Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing which is a component of the Center of Excellence and a leader in the research for manufacturing of flexible electronics."
Malcolm Thompson, NBMC's CEO, said, "The Binghamton University project represents an interesting and well-defined approach to determining the best components and packaging techniques for creating a manufacturable electronic and biometric sensor platform. It will be exciting to see what the results indicate at the conclusion of this project."