Biocompatible Piezoelectric Thin Films: Towards a Wearable Sensor Devices


Sensors and actuators that are based on biocompatible piezoelectric materials have a great future. These biodevices can be safely integrated with biological systems for applications such as sensing biological forces, stimulating tissue growth and healing, as well as diagnosing medical problems. The main objective of the project is related to understanding the unusually high piezoelectric and pyroelectric activity recently discovered, including by the UA team, in some amino acids and short dipeptide and based on them, further improving the specific qualities of amino acids crystals and biofilms required for applications for electrical energy harvesting, as sensors etc. Energy harvesting from ambient sources has a significant practical appeal because of the ecological benefits and various technological applications. In the past, inorganic materials such as Pb(Zr,Ti)O3 have been widely used for vibrational and thermal energy harvesting. However, their use in biology and medicine has been limited because of a number of disadvantages. First of all, they are not biologically compatible and require protection for the contact with biological environment. Secondly, their processing routes require high temperatures, so their miniaturization and integration with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) is very difficult. Moreover, inorganic materials are brittle and do not allow conformal deposition necessary for wearable/flexible/implanted electronics. In recent years, organic and bioorganic materials have emerged due to their applicability in electronic and energy devices, however, the concerted action at the European level is required to boost the research and to optimize materials synthesis, characterization, modeling, and bio- and ecological compatibility. Besides the fundamental interest in ferroelectric/piezoelectric phenomena in novel organic and biomolecular materials (dipeptides) affecting their properties they can be efficient for harvesting the wasted energy from the human/animal body and environment.The main idea of the project is to further develop biocompatible piezoelectric thin films that can replace traditionally used inorganic ceramics and single crystals (such as PZT, LNO, BaTiO3, etc.) in fabrication of wearable sensor devices. In order to maximize the specific quality of materials for these applications, we are going to improve the methods of growing them, structurally characterize them using the advanced tools available at the European level, measure their quality performance at the macro and nano levels. , simulate their piezoelectric and pyroelectric properties, use new fabrication techniques to prototype sensors, and facilitate technology transfer from academia to industry.The proposed research within project will include several stages of research activities. These are development of emergent piezoelectric materials and structures, such as mono and multilayers films based peptide, new techniques for their processing, and scientific understanding and modeling of their behavior, followed by characterization and implementation in demonstrators, prototypical sensor devises.There future technologies will have enormous scientific, social, and economic implications. Further down the value chain, the feasibility of new materials enabled by this project may have applications in bio-robotics, biocompatible printable electronics, environmentally friendly disposable sensor networks to mention just a few. Moreover, these advancements in the field of piezoelectric materials and microsystems can spark a new age in the field of medicine.This project will have a three-fold impact at research, industrial and societal level: (i) it will facilitate strategical development of novel biocompatible materials and technologies for sensors, etc. (ii) this project will validate a new and more economically and environmentally sustainable concept of biocompatible sensors for subsequent transition to the industrial stage. This is poised to open up a range of new applications benefitting the society. (iii) The inherent bioinspired nature of peptide structures allow them to bridge the gap between the semiconductor world and biological systems, thus making them useful for applications in health care research. In the long-term perspective, these materials can be used to develop autonomous bio-machines that operate within in vivo biological systems. This may allow direct, label-free, real-time monitoring and sensing of a wide variety of metabolic activities, as well as analysis, and possibly interference, of the biological system. As a long-term vision, the expected impact at the end of the project is to stimulate a host of spin-off innovation projects aimed to raise the maturity level of project-developed technology in each specific field of application listed above. It will help to attract significant funding to UA and UMinho.


Svitlana Kopyl


Universidade de Aveiro (UA)


Universidade do Minho


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