Researchers create flexible antenna for mobile monitoring devices

North Carolina State University researchers have developed a stretchable antenna for wearable devices that can withstand twisting and rolling.

"Many researchers--including our lab--have developed prototype sensors for wearable health systems, but there was a clear need to develop antennas that can be easily incorporated into those systems to transmit data from the sensors, so that patients can be monitored or diagnosed," states Yong Zhu, M.D., an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and senior author of a paper on the development.

The innovation arrives as an increasing number of wearable healthcare products are being developed and used. More than 17 million wearable bands will ship this year, according to research firm Canalys. ABI Research is even more bullish, predicting the growth of sports, fitness and health applications will result in 90 million wearable computing devices being shipped this year.

An announcement about the antenna explains that while the antenna's frequency changes as it is stretched, given changing dimensions, the frequency remains within a defined bandwidth.

"This means it will still communicate effectively with remote equipment while being stretched," states Jacob Adams, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State, in the announcement. 

"In addition, it returns to its original shape and continues to work even after it has been significantly deformed, bent, twisted or rolled," Adams explains, noting the antenna can be used a wireless strain sensor as well.

The development builds on previous research from Zhu's lab to create elastic conductors and multifunctional sensors using silver nanowires.

"Our technique is relatively simple, can be integrated directly into the sensors themselves, and would be fairly easy to scale up," said Zhu.

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- read the research abstract

Related Articles:
Over 17 million wearable bands to ship in 2014
90 million wearable devices to ship in 2014
Apple vs. Google: An mHealth Face-Off
Consumer interest in purchasing wearable fitness devices quadruples