At CES, you have an opportunity to meet folks of almost science fiction talents. One such encounter was with Amanda Myers, a PhD graduate student at North Carolina State University who is involved in the research and development of stretchable electronics.
Myers joined Dr. Yong Zhu’s team which originally was working to create flexible conductors made from carbon nanotubes by placing the nanotubes on an elastic substrate. The group was funded by the National Science Foundation-nanoEngineering Research Centers
grant given to NC State to create body-powered, wearable health monitoring systems.
Zhu used 1D nanostructures instead of the nano-ribbons employed by others in the field. He switched to working with silver nanowires which he says have a big advantage over carbon nanotubes, such as higher conductivity and less complicated production. A major benefit of silver nanowires is that they are biocompatible, meaning they are safe to use in stretchable biomedical electronic devices, whereas unrefined carbon nanotubes can be slightly toxic. In 2012, Zhu and F. Xu published
"Highly Conductive and Stretchable Silver Nanowire Conductors," in Advanced Materials which you can read for a thorough technical rendition.
PhD research assistant Amanda Myers demonstrates the flexibility of the bioelectrode
Myers works with NC State’s ASSIST (Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies) Center under Director Veena Misra whose primary area of research is Nanoelectronics and Photonics which includes Materials and Devices, Silicon Devices and Fabrication.
The project Myers worked on is a sensor system flexible enough to be placed on the skin where embedded electrodes can detect muscle activity and hydration levels for example. Two applications of these stretchable bioelectrodes are ECG and EMG monitoring.
Bioelectronic devices record or transmit physiological information. They merge biology, sensors, interface electronics, microcontrollers, and computer programming. Individuals disciplined in traditional biology, optics, mechanics, mathematics, electronics, chemistry, and computer science are needed to complete the circle.
The blending of biology and electronics is a relatively new and exciting field. Myers’ degree in mechanical engineering has taken her into a dimension only dreamed of by previous generations. Zhu’s group involves themselves in outreach efforts to increase awareness of nanotechnology. We found Myers doing just that at CES. They emphasize awareness of nanomechanics among K-12 students and teachers, as well as the public. They want to inspire students to choose STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers. Myers should be an inspiration to any young girl wondering what her future might hold.
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