2/2013

Electronic plaster keeps an eye on your health

Matti Mäntysalo

Matti Mäntysalo holds an ultralight, flexible plaster with an embedded transmitter
and high-performance electronics. His research group is still weighing up potential
energy sources; one possibility is a printed supercapacitor studied by Postdoctoral
Researcher Sampo Tuukkanen at TUT.        

Researchers at TUT launched the HealthSens project a year ago to explore the medical uses of flexible and printed electronics. They are developing a measurement device that adheres to the skin like a plaster and records physiological signals, such as the electrical activity of the heart.

The main idea is to develop a self-adhesive plaster that unobtrusively measures the wearer’s vital signs. Stored on a smartphone or in the cloud, the data is readily available to the wearer for personal health monitoring purposes or to medical personnel for further analysis.      

“The plaster may not provide quite as accurate data as high-tech medical technologies, but the results indicate the overall trend in the wearer’s health and the long-term effects of medication and reveal, for example, whether the wearer is sticking to a prescribed exercise regime,” says Assistant Professor Matti Mäntysalo who is heading the HealthSens project.

Insights into public health

Public sector spending cuts are biting into the national healthcare budget, but the elderly population most likely to need medical and long-term care services continues to grow. Mäntysalo believes that one does not necessarily exclude the other.

“Cost-cutting is not always a bad thing. We could develop the healthcare system and even replace some services by introducing applications that reflect the growing awareness of health and wellbeing among the general public,” he explains.  

Plasters that monitor vital signs could also promote public health.

“Printed electronics enables the production of low-cost monitoring systems that collect large amounts of data on the health of the population. The information could be used, among others, to estimate the prevalence of specific diseases.”

WHO: Assistant Professor Matti Mäntysalo

  • Earned his master's degree in 2004 and completed a dissertation on electronics miniaturization at TUT in 2008.
  • Head of the Printable Electronics Research Group. The group's primary research interests lie in the integration of printed and silicon-based electronics by inkjet technology.
  • Sits on the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Finnish Reserve Officers' Federation MATINE.
  • Live-in partner and two daughters

Emphasis on the applicability of research

The Tekes-funded HealthSens project is a strategic research initiative that seeks to expand the applicability of flexible electronics to biomeasurements.   

Printed electronics is nothing new for Mäntysalo. While working at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm in 2011–2012, Mäntysalo contributed to the Bio-Patch project by examining the potential uses of printed electronics in ECG, EEG and EMG measurements.  

The HealthSens project draws upon the combined expertise of Mäntysalo’s Printable Electronics Research Group, Adjunct Professor Riku Mäkinen’s RF Electronics Group and Professor Jukka Lekkala’s Sensor Technology and Biomeasurements Group at TUT.

Mäntysalo thrives on collaboration and actively advocates the transfer of research results into practice.

“I enjoy working on projects that provide tangible benefits and have commercial potential. Even though the focus would be on fundamental research, it’s always good to give some thought to practical applications,” he says.   

 

Tenure track towards full professorship

Matti Mäntysalo is one of the talented post-docs who have been placed on TUT’s tenure track. They will progress along a three-stage career path towards promotion to the rank of Full Professor.   

Mäntysalo took up his four-year appointment as Assistant Professor (2nd term) on 1 August 2013.  

“The tenure track allows me to throw myself wholeheartedly into my research and puts me in a better position to obtain funding for my group. And there’s more breathing space for creativity,” he says. 

 

Text: Päivi Eskelinen
Photo: Petri Laitinen

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