Making a miniaturised, customised wearable sensor system
A new research project is developing miniature physiological sensors and decoders to improve communication between human brains and robots.
Researchers in the Faculty of Engineering and IT are embarking on a two-year $1.2 million project with the Department of Defence to examine how truly cutting-edge technologies could use brainwaves to command and control autonomous vehicles.
UTS is the only university to receive funding in the latest tranche from the Department’s Defence Innovation Hub. A team led by Distinguished Professor CT Lin and Professor Francesca Iacopi will integrate cognition neuroscience and device engineering to develop wearable technology.
Human-robot interaction will be improved by the integration of electrical brain signals from miniature physiological sensors with a brain signal decoder. Communication by brain wave will abrogate the need to control a robot manually. The flow of information will allow them to direct the robot and correct any erroneous moves.
Adapting brain waves
Distinguished Professor CT Lin, Director, Computational Intelligence and Brain Computer Interface Lab in Australian AI Institute, is one of the leading researchers in brain computer interfaces (BCI), developing systems of brain information processing and communication with machines.
He studies the brain and behaviours, the physiological changes that occur when human cognitive functions are working, and ways to combine human physiological information with artificial intelligence (AI) to develop monitoring and feedback systems. He brings to this project his expertise in wearable and wireless devices, ways to measure brain waves (EEG signals) and to mitigate the ‘noise’ that can affect BCI performance.
I want to improve the flow of information from humans to robots, so humans can make better informed decisions and respond to complex, stressful situations.
An internationally-recognised expert in nanotechnology, Professor Francesca Iacopi will apply cutting-edge devices and materials technologies to produce the sensors Professor Lin will use for the wearable system.
She and her team’s ground-breaking work transforms advances in nanomaterials and new device concepts into effective technologies, specifically using graphene - a single, thin layer of graphite, the same material found in the humble pencil!
Graphene is often referred to as a ‘supermaterial’ as it is one of the thinnest, lightest and strongest materials known. Its advantages in this project include its compatibility with skin, its high electrical conduction and its resilience.
Professor Iacopi has already developed a materials system to embed graphene-based micro devices on silicon wafers through a process that can be adapted for large-scale manufacturing, and is now harnessing this technology to develop the smart sensors required as we move to a truly interconnected and networked world.
Graphene has extraordinary material properties. However, most graphene synthesis methods are not compatible with semiconductor technologies, precluding a lot of the miniaturised applications. The new synthesis I developed will help obtain graphene from sources that make it more accessible and affordable.
In this interdisciplinary collaboration, UTS researchers will develop miniaturised, customised graphene-based sensors and brain-wave decoders which will be smaller, more ergonomic and biocompatible than the off-the-shelf ones.
This is technology at a very early stage, with vast potential for applications across multiple industries, including in the medical and bio-technology, education and training sectors.