Current environmental monitors typically consist of bulky, intrusive stationary or portable systems that cannot be worn comfortably on the body during physical activity.
An interdisciplinary research team of faculty and students from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL), University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and Texas A&M (A&M) is developing a sensitive surveillance system in the form of a wearable electronic nose that will automatically and passively monitor the air to detect previously defined environmental and chemical threats.
This new small, adhesive device transforms each person into a probe while collecting more and better data that provides decision makers with detailed, real-time information to determine threat status.
"The NSRI IRAD project has provided us the opportunity to learn more about potential airborne hazards and threats, the human body's response and available sensing technologies," said NSRI Fellow Dr. Eric Markvicka, UNL assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering. "We have also identified and addressed critical challenges related to the integration of polymer-based gas sensors with supporting electronic components and the intimate integration of these technologies with the human body."
In addition to its size and ease of use, the device aims to provide:
- High sensitivity to detect environmental challenges below risk levels
- High selectivity to prevent false-alarm scenarios
- Near real-time response speed to support and facilitate earlier mitigation efforts
The project team, led by Dr. Markvicka with NSRI Fellow Dr. Stephen Rennard, UNMC professor of pulmonary research, and Dr. Jenna Yentes, A&M associate professor of health and kinesiology, has hit several key milestones, including:
- Wireless Bluetooth capability
- Onboard local data storage
- Resistive and capacitive sensing
- Lab validation of the sensor
- Paper presented at April 2022 ASME Design of Medical Devices Conference
- Five-minute project overview video
The team is now working toward chemoresistive and chemocapacitive sensing capability. Their stretch goal is to validate the device in a controlled laboratory setting and train a supervised machine learning model using k-nearest neighbors, support vector machine and artificial neural networks.
"Continuous monitoring and localization of air-borne chemical vapors is of critical importance to mitigate the effects of environmental and chemical weapons of mass destruction," Dr. Marvicka said. "A wearable gas sensing platform will extend existing environmental monitors such that each individual person will be a ‘probe’ of potential threats allowing for detailed real-time monitoring of threat status.
"We are proud to be able to engage graduate and undergraduate students in cutting-edge research that has the potential to support and protect the women and men in our Armed Forces."
About the National Strategic Research Institute
Through the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska leading scientists deliver innovative national security research, technology, product and strategy development, training and exercises, and subject matter expertise to the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. One of only 14 DOD-designated University Affiliated Research Centers in the country, NSRI is sponsored by U.S. Strategic Command and works to ensure the United States’ safety and preparedness against increasingly sophisticated threats. Read about our mission.