A focus for us is innovative patient monitoring solutions that fit into everyday life. We develop technologies and applications that unobtrusively deliver medical-grade data in any setting. And, with clinical partners, we explore ways to combine and analyse that data, and turn it into new and actionable insights. Those insights can help spot early warning signs and give feedback that encourages healthy behaviour and lifestyle choices, improving quality of life while controlling healthcare spending.
High-quality medical imaging is the cornerstone of diagnostics and an increasing suit of image-guided therapies. Using thin-film technologies, we are opening up new possibilities for various medical imaging modalities by offering detection over larger areas. For example, our flexible X-ray detectors are lighter and more robust than traditional glass-based detectors, making X-ray systems more portable. The detectors can also be curved, enabling more compact systems.
Based on technologies similar to those already used widely in the semiconductor and display industries, we are also developing large area sensors for visible and near infrared light. These can be used in applications ranging from unobtrusive pregnancy monitoring to pulse oximetry for monitoring skin grafts or arterial disease due to diabetes. In addition, our flexible, large-area ultrasound-on-foil technology enables handheld or 'hands-free' imagers as well as wearable patches for safe, non-invasive monitoring of even hard-to-image body parts in hospitals, at home and on the go.
Effective health management relies on accurate, long-term monitoring. This requires medical devices that are comfortable and reliable enough to be worn on the body for long periods of time. We are using our expertise in printed electronics and bio-compatible materials to create on-body monitoring solutions that meet these goals while still delivering high-quality, multi-sensor data. With these technologies we can create devices such as bandages, clothing or dedicated patches for use in hospitals, at-home care and telehealth programs for remote communities.
A wide range of sensing options can be incorporated into a single on-body monitoring solution, including ECG, (core body) temperature and pressure. Combined with smart algorithms and data analysis, this makes it possible to develop tailored solutions for applications as varied as vital signs and blood oxygen saturation measurement for sepsis detection, chronic illness monitoring and orthopaedic rehabilitation.
On-body monitoring is not the preferred option in every case, for example, newborns have very sensitive skin. In these cases, non-contact monitoring is a much better solution. With non-contact monitoring, users don't have to remember to put on a wearable device, as sensors are invisibly embedded into the objects around them such as a bed that monitors vital signs or sleeping position.
Using printed electronics technologies, we are developing non-contact sensing solutions for measuring various health-related parameters. In these systems, we combine various types of printed sensor (temperature, pressure, etc.) and use smart algorithms and data science to convert that data into meaningful information such as heart rate or respiration. Further analysis can enable the detection of anything from bed sores to stress levels.
Addressing health and well-being issues such as lifestyle diseases, aging populations and personal safety demands highly personalized solutions that blend unobtrusively into everyday life. Technologically, such solutions require on-body sensing and actuation plus direct connectivity with digital networks and the Internet of Things. As the interface between our bodies and the world around us, clothing is the perfect platform to make solutions personal and part of normal life.
At Holst Centre we develop next-generation smart clothing to enhance health and vitality and bring smart textiles and smart clothing to life through thin, stretchable printed electronics that can be seamlessly integrated into fabrics without affecting their wearability.
Smart clothing is about much more than just the functionality and technology it brings. It also needs to deliver the full experience of clothing. That's why Holst Centre designs smart clothing holistically to take into account all the qualities of the garment using technologies that are soft, washable, stretchable and discreet. Together with partners in the value chain, like materials suppliers and manufacturers, Holst Centre helps people to be more resilient, supported and protected during work, sports and leisure activities.
To help partners build smart clothing and smart textile applications, Holst Centre developed a "mix and match" platform of thin, stretchable and washable printed electronics technologies. The platform allows a wide range of sensors and actuators – including ECG and bioimpedance electrodes, LEDs, solar cells and temperature, oxygen saturation, strain and motion sensors – to be combined and manufactured together.
From a garment manufacturing point of view, the printed electronics can be thought of as a trim that can be easily integrated into the garment through commonly used heat-bonding processes. This offers complete design freedom and facilitates recycling through delamination.
The platform has been developed and thoroughly validated (on electrical and mechanical performance, as well as washability and wearability) in a number of our own and client applications. These include:
- A shirt with haptic breathing guidance to help people with regulate stress through conscious breathing,
- A "Flight Sensing Shirt" that monitors fighter pilots' heart rate and breathing
- Motion-tracking sportswear to improve training,
- A light-therapy headband for regulating stress and anxiety
- A pregnancy belt for monitoring fetal health at home