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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N009118/1
Title: Foresight Fellowship in Manufacturing: Defining and Fabricating New Passive Bio-Sensing Wireless Tag Technologies
Principal Investigator: Batchelor, Professor J
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Centre for Process Innovation Limited
Department: Sch of Engineering & Digital Arts
Organisation: University of Kent
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 October 2015 Ends: 30 September 2018 Value (£): 148,602
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biomaterials Manufacturing Machine & Plant
RF & Microwave Technology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Aerospace, Defence and Marine Communications
Manufacturing Healthcare
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
27 May 2015 Foresight Fellowships Interviews Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The fellowship will use 3 selected international leading researchers to help develop passive Biosensors as candidates for widespread fabrication by additive manufacturing techniques. These sensors will be read wirelessly, they will be microscale and directly integrated into surfaces of medical implants, packaging or transfer tattoos. The sensors could be produced in great numbers, or they may be very specific meaning only a few are needed. Therefore, producing them locally by inkjet style additive manufacture is highly desirable. When these communicating sensors can be made very thin, very cheap and reliable, they can be widely applied and will form an enabling technology of the Internet of Things. The international researchers are Profs John Rogers in Illinois, Leena Ukkonen in Tampere and Prof Gaetano Marrocco in Rome. The manufacturing research is underpinned by Prof S Yeates at the Manchester Centre for Digital Fabrication.

If a wireless sensor is to be very low profile and cheap, it cannot have a battery meaning it must be passive. Some strain, dampness, chemical vapour and pressure sensors are being developed based on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. These sensors offer potential to enable the Internet of Things, but they do not have the very high sensitivity or selectivity required to detect a biological agent such as the microbial products that cause infection. Additionally, the sensors and their antennas are directly integrated with functional materials that currently makes their manufacturing a complex issue and they are often large in size compared to integrated technologies.

Producing passive wireless biosensors is a major challenge and cross several discipline boundaries: Bioscience, materials science, electronic engineering, chemistry, ink formulation and additive manufacture. Creating a transducer that converts a small probe response to a large enough electrical change to modulate the transmission of the RFID link is key. This pivots on effecting a significant change in permittivity associated with an antenna substrate or its feed matching system when a particular 'sensed' parameter occurs. Obtaining a sufficiently large change in capacitance or conductivity requires expertise in functional materials science and antenna engineering. The proposed sensors will require manufacturing processes to realize structures that are not currently producible, or that require high-end tooling and clean room processes which compounds the barriers to manufacturing passive wireless biosensors. Although there are many potential applications of microsystem wireless sensors integrated into surfaces, the specific applications considered in this fellowship are firstly to detect biofilms on silicone valves in voice prostheses and secondly, to develop efficient epidermal sensing tags for skin based health monitoring.

The identified key challenges of the work are:

1. Obtaining sensitivity to small concentrations, and selectivity of, bio-agents

2. Achieving efficient transducing between bio-sensing probe and passive wireless terminal

3. Incorporation of active bio-active functional materials onto surfaces

4. Fabrication of activated sensing microsystems

These challenges will be met through 3 activities:

(a) Additive manufacture of Micro-Surface Patterning and 3D Micro-system bio-sensing cantilevers with Prof Leena Ukkonen in Tampere, Finland.

(b) Creating Auto-Tuning Epidermal Tags on Bio-Compatible Materials with Prof Gaetano Marrocco in Rome, Italy.

(c) Identifying optimal technology combinations for integration into epidermal systems and road mapping future manufacturing techniques with Prof John Rogers in Illinois, US.

The bioscience and materials science expertise is provided at Kent by Drs C. Gourlay and S. Holder respectively.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.kent.ac.uk