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Magazine for Organic & Printed Electronics

OPE journal:

One of the key terms used

by CSEM is “human-centric sensing”. Could

you outline this vision of your institute?

G. Nisato:

Putting the human being at

the centre of the vision, at the centre of the

attention field, provides much inspiration

for integration of functions enabled by tech-

nology to improve our daily lives. Having

information, quantitative information, on

our vital signs can enable us to make more

informed choices, provide our health care

providers, our physicians, with timely data or

simply make us feel better ourselves, when

we have exercised well for example. CSEM

has been working for many years on various

sensing technologies, miniaturisation,

ultra-low power electronics and wireless

transmission. A lot of know how in algorith-

mic development led to vital sign monitoring

which is both of very high quality and

portable. Some of these solutions date back

to space programmes to monitor astro-

nauts unobtrusively. From top athletes, to

every-day sport enthusiasts to ageing people

requiring additional care, CSEM aims at

developing solutions that make a difference.

OPE journal:

What are the buil-

ding blocks of printed sensors?

G. Nisato:

Sensors systems require central

intelligence and communication capabilities,

which will be provided by classic electronics

for the foreseeable future. The sensitive

part, on the other hand, can be provided by

printed electronic sensors, especially when

it’s multimodal. CSEM developed know-

how to design and print sensors for various

“signals” including pH, sodium, potassium,

glucose temperature and impedance. As

several of these sensors can be integrated

in a multimodal system that measures

several of these inputs and analytes at

the same time, these can be referred to

the building blocks of printed sensors.

OPE journal:

Another challenge asso-

ciated with wearable technology is power

supply. Do you think that organic photo-

voltaics and/or printed batteries could be

a major solution for issues such as battery

life and short charging/discharging cycles?

G. Nisato:

The potential of printed batte-

ries compared with conventional ones can

be seen in the fact that their shape can be

adapted to the final shape of the powered

device. This enables conformal solutions

which reduce the overall volume occupied

by the battery and its weight. Printing tech-

niques enable a huge potential in terms of

form factors and this characteristic responds

perfectly to the need of an emerging market

such as wearables where the device has to

fit as much as possible with the body shape

of the final user (or backpacks, helmets,

shoes etc.). Concerning the battery life and

the short charging aspects the answer has to

be searched more in the materials and not

in the manufacturing technique. In the last

years different materials have been tested

to face these problems (for example silicon,

lithium (as a negative electrode), lithium-air

based batteries) but collateral problems

as volumetric expansion (300% vs 1% for

conventional batteries) or dendrite growth

affect the life and the safety of the battery

by reducing considerably at the moment the

use of these technologies for the wearable

market. Currently the research is extremely

focused on the identification of the best

materials to solve these problems and prin-

ting technologies will likely be one of the

key factors enabling the definitive growth

of the wearable market in the next years.

OPE journal:

As a technology part-

ner, CSEM contributed to quite a few

products that have already success-

fully entered the consumer markets.

Could you provide some examples?

G. Nisato:

In the past years, several

wearable devices were introduced in the

market featuring CSEM technology. For exa-

mple, CSEM was instrumental in supporting

Limmex AG to develop its emergency watch

that looks like a traditional wristwatch,

enabling the wearer to request assistance at

the push of a button, and to speak with pre-

selected persons (e.g. family members, call

centre, physician). The potential applications

of the Limmex watch are numerous. In

the professional sector, Limmex increases

the safety of those working in dangerous

environments or alone, such as people

working in security, at 24-hour gas stations,

etc. Similarly, Limmex offers safety to private

individuals such as athletes or children. It

also increases the quality of life of people

with illnesses such as epilepsy, cardiac

problems or strong allergies, any of whom

might find themselves in an emergency situ-

ation and need immediate assistance. Elderly

persons will be able to count on a system

which operates outside their own four walls,

is discreet, and which requires no installa-

tion. This innovative product was introduced

in the market in 2011. Other examples

include the PulseOn start up, which inte-

grated a high quality, optically based heart

rate monitoring system in their products.

OPE journal:

Where do you see further

potentials for CSEM in the future?

G. Nisato:

CSEM is well positioned to

support and connect many industries. In

terms of sensors and wearables, several

developments can and will take a con-

sumer electronics or consumer health

care route. Other applications of printed

electronic sensors can be deployed in a

medical environment, and will require

more dedicated, medical-grade R&D

developments. The application areas involve

patient monitoring or self-monitoring in

a point-of-care environment. In this case

as well the systems have to be extre-

mely cost-effective and easy to use.

A sweat sensor from CSEM