Nanoengineered Systems Laboratory


UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Grant

Sensors for Healthcare Applications

Smart Footwear with Embedded Wireless Sensors 

The project aims to develop smart footwear to monitor foot loading and gait complications. Several micro/nanomanufacturing techniques will be explored to develop pressure/force sensors and integrate them into common footwear products. Such smart footwears and related plantar pressure/force mapping can have direct implications for applications as diverse as gait analysis, performance analysis for sports personnel and for clinically significant applications such as detection and management of diabetic foot ulcers. This involves conceiving miniature wearable pressure/force sensors to address global health challenges, such as the staggering financial and clinical burden of diabetic wound care and amputation. High-resolution 3D printing will be exploited to overcome the prototyping challenges to realise such sensors and integrate them on common footwear products in a cost-effective manner. Finite element modelling of footwear loading and machine learning techniques will support the material selection, sensor placement and the design of embedded electronics for wireless sensing. The sensor data may also be exploited to inform healthcare engineering and clinical decisions, and could also enable real-time feedback training systems (e.g. using a smartphone based wireless monitoring system). The technology developed here could enable early and timely intervention to correct the biomechanical abnormalities underlying typical injuries and diagnosis of diabetic foot ulcers.

Miniature and flexible oxygen sensors 

Progress in soft materials and manufacturing technologies is enabling unprecedented and exciting growth of gas and chemical sensors for internet of things, body area networks, big data and health care applications. One example is oxygen sensors, which offer critical information regarding the physiology of a person. Thus, wearable oxygen sensors are nowadays common place in hospitals and also form an integral part of wearable devices such as the apple watch. In this project, we seek to investigate a new class of high-resolution and small form factor oxygen sensors for healthcare applications.

Realizing a high resolution and wireless monitoring system of oxygen using arrays of miniature (< 1 sq. mm) sensors will unlock opportunities for exploiting these systems in implantable medical devices. This will minimise the cost of monitoring patients who need such devices for life saving restoration or augmentation of bodily functions and will also play a vital role delivering next generation of health and care practices. Example applications include new artificial organs, prosthetic devices from cardio vascular to orthopaedic applications and bionic devices for new developments in medical robotics, where oxygen sensing is required. In addition, miniature sensors can also be employed to monitor oxygen in tumors, thereby facilitating early cancer detection and development of new therapeutics.

The underpinning sensing mechanism will comprise of spectroscopic analysis of blood flow using arrays of organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) and organic photodiodes (OPDs). The overarching goal of the project is to design and fabricate low cost miniature sensors (devices, electronics and signal processing and software) with excellent oxygen sensitivity and specificity (i.e. ability to distinguish O2 from other gas species), high signal-to-noise ratio and long term operational stability.

This multidisciplinary research project will combine the capabilities in the supervisors' groups in high-resolution 3D printing, photonics and electronic and signal processing circuit design and soft material manufacturing. Special emphasis will be placed on design of novel electronics hardware for noise stable sensing and sensor drift minimisation. The project will also offer an opportunity to extend to a PhD with ultimate goal to integrate a full-scale sensor system into implantable medical devices and characterize them in vivo with the help of our clinical collaborators.