The Purdue project looks at the potentially significant health care burden posed by chronic oxygen-deprived wounds as the U.S. population ages. Its goal is to create a printed FHE smart wound dressing that can sense oxygen levels in a wound bed and deliver topical oxygen to arrest further deterioration of the wound. The Purdue team will work to bring the dressing to fruition as a manufacturable solution that can be easily adopted and produced in high volumes.
Focusing on the wearable space, the Cal Poly project proposes development of an assembly method for attaching ultra-thin chips onto printed flexible substrates that can provide better performance and comfort for wearable medical/human monitoring systems. The Cal Poly team will design tooling, characterize and optimize assembly processes, and evaluate various assembly methods' viability for a pilot build that – unlike prior attempts at similar solutions – Is transferable from the laboratory to the manufacturing floor. By developing assembly technology useful for other applications and growing the expert base, while driving toward a commercially available solution, the project aims to benefit the FHE community overall.
Jointly submitted by PARC and the University of California at San Diego, the third project proposes to create a mouth-guard biosensor label that will serve as a platform for chemical biosensing and wireless communications via the Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE) standard. Wearable by members of the military and others in high-stress positions, the biosensor label in the mouth guard will continuously sense lactate concentration, an important indicator of fatigue. Mouth guards are an ideal format for FHE performance monitoring, as they are standard athletic equipment required in U.S. Army training activities and offer real-time access to saliva biomarkers. In addition, the printed sensor electrodes will be replaceable, increasing system lifetime, reducing per-use cost, and enabling them to be adapted to other chemical analyses.
For the fourth project selected, BU and GE –– will work to develop and mature the FHE manufacturing technologies needed to fabricate wireless pervasive/ubiquitous integrated sensor systems. These wireless systems, which will be able to continuously monitor and communicate conditions of people and assets, are crucial for digital health initiatives and the Industrial Internet of Things (IoT). Developing FHE manufacturing capabilities to create low-cost, high-performance wireless sensor systems is of broad interest to commercial and DoD end-users and is one of the critical missions of NextFlex.
Commenting on the initial contract awards, Dr. Malcolm Thompson, executive director of NextFlex, noted, "Selecting the first projects to be funded by the Institute was no easy task. The response to our initial project call was overwhelming, offering further proof that there is vast potential for leveraging flexible hybrid electronics in U.S. industry. Helping to see these and forthcoming projects through to fruition and, eventually, commercialization, is an exciting prospect for NextFlex and our corporate, academic, nonprofit and government partners."
Further recipients of Project Call 1.0 contract awards will be announced soon. Review of proposals received for Project Call 2.0, announced May 5, 2016, is currently in process. PC 2.0 is anticipated to fund up to $10 million, with total project value, including cost-sharing, expected to exceed $20 million. NextFlex plans to announce PC 3.0 in early 2017.
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About Flexible Hybrid Electronics
FHE combines the ability to add electronics to new and unique materials that are part of our everyday lives along with the power of silicon ICs to create lightweight, low-cost, flexible, conformable and stretchable smart products to solve new problems and advance the efficiency of our world.
NextFlex was founded on August 28, 2015, through the execution of a Cooperative Agreement between the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and FlexTech Alliance. A public-private partnership, NextFlex is the seventh Manufacturing Innovation Institute funded through the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation to create, showcase, and deploy new capabilities and new manufacturing processes. More information about NextFlex, including how to apply for membership, can be found at www.nextflex.us.
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