(NanoPower) Efficient self-powered nanomaterial systems to map muscular micro-activity by harvesting and storing biomechanical energy

At a glance

Title Efficient self-powered nanomaterial systems to map muscular micro-activity by harvesting and storing biomechanical energy
Reference 2022.15686.UTA
Scientific Area Nano Materials for New Markets
Funding (PT) 49 894 EUR
Funding (US) 100 000 USD
Leading Institutions Centro de Física das Universidades do Minho e do Porto (CF-UM-UP) – University of Minho, PT

Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, USA

Participating Institutions
Duration 12 months
Start date May 15, 2024
End date May 14, 2025
Keywords Triboelectric nanogenerators; Thin-Film dry nanoelectrodes; High Density surface EMG; Energy self-sustained systems

What is NanoPower about?

Globally, more than 1700 million people are affected by neuromuscular disorders, a number projected to rise due to population growth and ageing. Electromyography (EMG), crucial for assessing muscle function and neural activity, plays a pivotal role in improving healthcare outcomes.

Accurate identification of injury type, extent, and severity enables personalized rehabilitation. In recent years, there has been a growing demand for new surface electromyographic dry-electrodes to be integrated into wearables. It happened that the electrodes used detect the activity of all the innervated fibres, resulting in the superposition of several Motor Units Action Potentials in the temporal domain as a time-varying potential. However, neuromuscular activity is essentially a spatial phenomenon.

Furthermore, biomedical sensing is restricted to the use of conventional batteries with considerable limitations, including toxicity, bulkiness, or short operational lifespan. NanoPower project proposes a remote high-density sensor array (HD-sEMG) to map the neuromuscular activity, based on the development of flexible and biocompatible nano-electrodes powered by triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs). The integration of TENGs, provides the sensor array with energy independence for a sustainable daily monitoring routine, providing a real-time and continuous assessment of muscle activity.

What critical challenges is NanoPower addressing?

Our project aims to address the challenge of accessing detailed spatial electromyography  data in neuromuscular healthcare. While current methods identify injury characteristics well, they lack crucial spatial information for severity assessment. Existing techniques for spatial EMG data are non-remote and reliant on batteries, limiting clinical use. We aim to develop e-health devices for remote spatial EMG data acquisition, enabling autonomous monitoring and improving rehabilitation precision in neuromuscular healthcare.

How will NanoPower optimize the mapping of muscular micro-activity? 

The NanoPower project stands for a breakthrough biomedical device focused on mapping the neuromuscular activity, in the spatiotemporal domain through the development of new stretchable and flexible dry biopotential nanoelectrodes. Integrated triboelectric nanogenerators convert muscle motion energy into electricity, powering wireless transmission (via Bluetooth) of EMG recordings. The materials will be prepared using thin film technology.

How is NanoPower contributing to nanomaterial research?

Committed to the World Health Organization (WHO) and aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, this Project intends to revolutionize the biomedical sensors market, by developing new energy-efficient and environmentally friendly integrated sensing devices.

The team is aware of the potentialities of using nanomaterials in the biomedical market, which despite the remarkable expansion in recent years, presents some limitations regarding essential aspects such as real-time sensing, continuous monitoring, or wearability.

Thus, and taking advantage of a multidisciplinary team, with researchers from distinct areas, this project aims to introduce reliable advances in high-density EMG monitoring, powered by inexhaustible biomechanical energy sources.

Key Expected Outcomes

  • Exchange of scientific knowledge and skills, fostered by the transnational cooperation between Portugal and UT Austin;
  • The publication of several scientific papers in emerging scientific areas, such as the utilization of renewable energy sources in the growing market of biomedical devices, through the optimization of novel nanomaterials;
  • Provide opportunities for students to develop dissertations in relatively new and unexplored scientific and research domains;
  • The development of two final demonstrators: one for EMG mapping and the other for converting biomechanical energy into electrical energy;

Project Team

Cláudia Lopes

Researcher at CF-UM-UP - University of Minho

Michael Cullinan

Associate Professor at Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering, UT Austin
  • Other team members in Portugal: Filipe Vaz (Co-Pi; CF-UM-UP – University of Minho), Armando Ferreira (CF-UM-UP – University of Minho);

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