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Advanced materials for head phantoms enabling large scale testing of novel flexible electronics

Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering

Applications accepted all year round Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Next generation wearable sensor nodes will be based upon flexible and stretchable electronics. Often taking the form of “temporary tattoos” they connect directly to the skin and so give very good quality signals. We are currently running a number of projects with on-skin sensors: increasing their functionality in terms of the range of sensing possible; improving the accuracy of the sensors; and working with a high value manufacturing catapult to ensure that novel devices can be manufactured at scale.
The aim of this PhD is to create a phantom based test platform where the ‘participants’ are physical dummies, collecting and transmitting representative data. It requires significant innovation in physical human body phantoms as these now need to be representative at both DC frequencies (for physiological signal capture) and multi-GHz frequencies (for RF transmission from skin). If successful, the new phantoms will let us carry out long term, multi-user, representative testing of complete systems in a way which has never previously been possible. We will be able to test multiple ‘people’ streaming data simultaneously, across a wide range of RF environments, evaluating performance and possible sources of interference.

Our previous work has used conductive ballistic grade gelatine as a phantom material where moulds are 3D printed from head scans to give realistic shapes, and saline added to the solution to control the conductivity. The aim of this PhD will be to explore other materials and to create multi-layer phantoms, repeating the process in 2-3 steps to build up a multi-layer phantom with different properties in each layer, with exploratory work required to determine how to combine a DC inner core, with and RF skin layer with coupling layers between the two.

The prospective student will gain experience across different disciplines including engineering, advanced materials, and physiological testing. The project involves designing and conducting experimental research as well as data analysis and system creation.
If you are interested in research on bioelectronics and their test platforms, and are unsure about whether you have the right background, please get in touch. The project can be adapted based on the student’s interest and experiences.

Funding Notes

Funding for UK/EU students is available from the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership with the University of Manchester. The work is to align with EPSRC project “MultiSense – devising and manufacturing mm-wave high data rate low latency on-skin technologies” (View Website) which runs from October 2019 – October 2022.

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