New research by the University of Tokyo and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) features organic circuits that can give thin disposable items a whole new function.
What if we told that, in the near future, you would instantly know the exact chemical composition of somebody’s urine? Or the risk of infection from a certain microorganism as soon as you apply bandages to a wound? That is the potential future that is currently being researched by the University of Tokyo, in cooperation with JST, as they introduced the world’s very first flexible wireless organic sensor.
Basically, what these researchers have developed is an organic (carbon-based) integrated circuit that is written on top of a 12.5 micrometer-thick polymeric film. This paper-thin water-proof bendable material, with its ultra low power requirement (as low as 1.4 microwatts), is capable of receiving power wirelessly via electromagnetic resonance. Transmitting power via electromagnetic resonance is different from your average wireless inductive charger, in that its range is considerably longer by at least a few meters. The organic circuit also transmits data using the same method used for power transfer.
The organic circuit’s usability was tested on a wet diaper, shown at the image above, where it was successfully able to transmit the needed data and receive power from a nearby source.
One of the key objectives of the research is economic efficiency. The researchers wanted to develop something that is easy to make, use, dispose and replace. Instead of installing sophisticated and expensive equipment that could get damaged, a research team could simply stick a few of these thin sensors to measure variables such as humidity or air pressure.
So, what’s the connection of this seemingly ordinary environmental sensor to pee and wounds? Well, because of their small size and low cost, they can also be applied on certain disposable things that we use every day. Medical items for example, such as band-aids, diapers or bandages, can be functionalized to measure and analyze things using this technology. Regular use of such disposable hygienic sensors could even potentially reduce the need to conduct regular health tests, and a more accurate diagnosis could be made faster.
On an added note, due to the organic composition of the circuit, the research specifically suggested that it can be potentially made using a simple customized inkjet printer. Sensors with specific purposes and function could then be simply printed on demand, with only the raw materials and the circuit design being stored.
Source: JST (JP)