UTAR Academics Secure CREST R&D Grant

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A team of academics from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) Lee Kong Chian Faculty of Engineering and Science (LKC FES), namely Dr Chee Pei Song, Prof Ts Dr Lim Eng Hock, Dr Lee Yong Hong, and Ir Danny Ng Wee Kiat, recently secured the Collaborative Research in Engineering, Science and Technology Centre (CREST) R&D grant.

Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) Deputy Dean for Academic Development and Undergraduate Programmes Prof Dr Ng Teck Han also joined the team to provide medical advice. The research is also an industry collaboration grant with MDT Innovations Sdn Bhd.

The grant, worth RM522,322.94, was allocated for 24 months (2021 – 2022) for the research project titled “Skin – alike and AI-driven Smart Biosensor – antenna for Monitoring ECG Signals”. The grant, which will also fund two postgraduate students and research facilities, will bring to light the multidisciplinary research works of integrating antenna and sensing technology into a wearable device with Artificial Intelligence (AI) features.

“The project aims to develop a battery-free, skin-alike biosensor-antenna that can detect abnormalities in the ECG signals automatically through an AI-driven processor. Our strategy is to integrate a thin-film electronic layer with the microfluidic embedded soft material for designing the ECG sensor,” explained Dr Chee.

He added, “This research will catalyze more exploration of multidiscipline research for healthcare applications or devices. Thus, it broadens the product range of the healthcare industry in Malaysia. This will be an important effort to make Malaysia a strong base for the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable technologies in the healthcare industry.”

When asked of the inspiration that led to this research, Dr Chee said, “With the increasing interest in quantifying cardiac metrics for personal care, the heart rate monitoring sensors have been integrated into apparel and wrist bands. Nonetheless, these commercial devices comprise electronic components and interfaces that are mechanically rigid, thus restraining conformal skin contact for repeated and robust daily usage.

“Our team wishes to develop a soft electronic skin that is embedded with a sensor, energy harvesting module and antenna for far-field data communication. The data obtained will be analysed by an AI processor and it will inform users of their health status. Utilising soft material in the prototype development, the developed device is anticipated to be conformal to human skin and has better sensitivity,” Dr Chee said.

The Collaborative Research in Engineering, Science, and Technology Centre (CREST) is an industry-led collaborative platform for market-driven R&D and Talent Development to enable Malaysia to become a high-income nation. The CREST R&D grant aimed to accelerate the university’s ability to produce industry-ready researchers, and increase the competitiveness of the Electrical & Electronics (E&E) industry.

Its philosophy is to see that higher value E&E economic sector can be achieved when R&D thrives in the ecosystem, which can be accelerated by promoting collaborative research between industry and academia.

With the accommodating intellectual property arrangement, industry involvement in the research enables the research result to be prepositioned to industry application, increasing the potential for commercialization at research completion.