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Wearable Technology Expected to Grow and Morph

September 1, 2017

smiling woman wearing virtual reality glasses

Faster, smarter, and lighter than ever, computers today are shrinking in size, and in the booming wearable tech world, that’s a good thing. From fitness trackers to medical implants, the demand for wearable technology is rapidly increasing. Earlier this year, CCS Insight, which analyzes the mobile and wireless industries worldwide, forecasted that the wearable tech market will grow from approximately $10 billion in 2017 to nearly $17 billion by 2021. The forecast highlighted the smartwatch market, which is expected to see shipments of 43 million units in 2017, and sales doubling over the next four years to 86 million units in 2021.

According to International Data Corporation (IDC), the wearables market is not only growing, it is also morphing as well as evolving. The global technology media, events and research company says that although health and fitness remain a major focus of wearables, companies are working to merge the capabilities of separate single-purpose devices into multi-purpose devices. In addition, once the devices connect to cellular networks and the internet, IDC expects unique applications and communications capabilities to become available.

So what qualifies as wearable tech? Broadly speaking, wearable tech is any electronic device worn on the body or inside it (as an implant, for example). Many devices have intelligence behind them; they can take input, process it, and provide meaningful output. For example, a fitness tracker takes raw data from one or more sensors, processes it, and reports the number of steps a wearer has taken over a given time. The sensors are smart enough to track a person’s motions and differentiate between steps and other kinds of body motions.

Other wearables, such as smartwatches, have almost all the features and capabilities of smartphones. Newer models include fitness trackers, allowing users to do things like send and receive phone calls and texts, take pictures and videos, search the internet, pay bills, get directions, and check their activity levels. Smartglasses offer similar smartwatch features, but display information onto the lenses of eyeglasses or a heads-up display. Though not as common, but still trending, smart clothing and shoes can record a wearer’s biometrics using sensors attached to fabrics and insoles. Examples of implantable wearables include life-saving pacemakers and cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), retinal implant chips, and even microscopic sensors inside ingestible pills that relay data about a patient and the effects of prescribed medication.

Wearable tech innovations at UCF

UCF researchers continue to stay ahead of today’s trends, creating innovations in wearable technology for both future as well as current products. For example, one UCF researcher and his team have invented a skin-like display that can conform to any shape and dynamically change colors when applied with different electrical voltage. The groundbreaking technology developed by Debashis Chanda, Ph.D., enables makers of wearables to produce multi-color, high resolution images for a variety of devices, including lightweight (even stylish) virtual reality eyeglasses that replace the bulky helmets used in gaming and simulated military training. The technology is also ideal for making different kinds of smartwatch displays and smart clothing that combines multiple display, biometric and sensing capabilities.

Even more impressive is the fact that the invention needs only a fraction of the energy required by current technology. Often times, the displays on wearables are big drains on batteries; thus, many users have to recharge their devices at least daily. With Chanda’s invention, wearables can go much longer without a charge, greatly extending a device’s battery life. To learn more about Chanda and his work, read this month’s faculty feature coming soon.

Besides Chanda’s work in dynamic displays, UCF researches have made other significant advancements in wearable technology. For example, one invention enables the creation of implantable, deep brain stimulation devices. Another invention provides weavable filaments that harvest and store solar energy.

For more information about UCF’s latest wearable technology inventions, additional potential licensing or sponsored research opportunities, refer to the following list:

Technology

Contact

Optical Technology Offers High Diffraction Efficiency and Polarization Sensitivity

New Process and Applications for Flexible Electronic and Optoelectronic Circuits

More Color and Brightness for Compact Displays

High Performance, Structured Granular Composite Materials

Resonant Cavity Enhances Efficiency of IR to Visible Light Conversion

Brain Surgery: Improvement of Deep Brain Stimulation Methods, Systems, and Devices

New Electrode Contact Improves Targeted Electrical Current Flow from Deep Brain Stimulation

Low Voltage Up-converting IR-LEDs for Battery Powered Displays

John Miner
407.882.1136
New Filament Combines Solar Energy Harvesting and Storage Capabilities

Tunable, Uncooled Infrared Detector with Narrow-Band Wavelength Selectivity

Raju Nagaiah 407.882.0593
Synthetic Biodegradable Materials for Biomedical Applications

New Coating for Prosthetic Implants Helps to Reduce Inflammation and Bone Loss

Brion Berman 407.882.0342

 

By: Kathleen Snoeblen


Women’s Health Week Starts May 14

May 4, 2017

Diverse group of smiling womenThis year, the 18th annual National Women’s Health Week starts on Mother’s Day, May 14 and runs through May 20. Led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health (OWH), the annual event empowers women to make their health a priority. According to the OWH web site (womenshealth.gov), women can take steps to improve their health by scheduling a well-woman visit (checkup) each year. OWH also recommends that women undergo screening tests  for diseases such as breast cancer, cervical cancer and osteoporosis, and ensure that their vaccinations are up-to-date. The World Health Organization reports that some of the top issues affecting women’s health are cancer, reproductive health, maternal health, HIV, violence against women and mental health.

According to the National Institutes of Health, many issues affect women differently from men, for example:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, and women are more likely to die following a heart attack than men are.
  • Stroke affects more women than men, and though the risk factors for both are similar, women have additional factors, such as taking birth control pills, being pregnant, and using hormone replacement therapy.
  • Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are more serious in women than in men, even though men are more likely to become dependent on, or addicted to, alcohol. The health effects include an increased risk for breast cancer and heart disease. Women who drink during pregnancy run the risk of their babies being born with fetal alcohol syndrome, which causes brain damage and learning difficulties.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be more serious in women, causing infertility in at least 24,000 women in the United States each year. STDs/STIs (such as HPV, which can cause cervical cancer) often go untreated in women because symptoms are less obvious than in men. Also, women may mistake an STD/STI for another less serious condition, such as a yeast infection.

Women and cancer

Two of the most common cancers affecting women are breast and cervical cancers, and early detection is key to keeping women alive and healthy. Globally, approximately half a million women die from cervical cancer and half a million from breast cancer each year.

Cervical cancer starts in the cervix, the lower, narrow part of the uterus, and is the easiest gynecological cancer to prevent with regular screening tests and vaccination. It is also curable when found and treated early. A major cause of cervical cancers is the human papillomavirus (HPV). Cervical cancer tends to occur in midlife, with most cases being detected in women between ages 20 and 50.

Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control and usually form a tumor. The tumor can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. If the cells invade surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body, then the tumor is malignant (cancerous). Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get breast cancer, too. Though breast cancers can start from different parts of the breast, most begin in the ducts.

In its “Cancer Facts & Figures 2017” report, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 12,820 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. and about 4,210 women will die from it. The society also estimates about 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women and that 40,610 women will die from it. Though the statistics are not ideal, the cervical cancer death rate has dropped by more than 50 percent over the last 40 years, due to increased use of the Pap test (also called the Pap smear). As well, the female breast cancer death rate declined by 38 percent from its peak from 1989 to 2014. This is due to improvements in early detection and treatment, translating to 297,300 fewer breast cancer deaths.

UCF efforts to fight cancer

To help improve and speed the diagnosis of cervical cancer, UCF researchers have invented a new all-in-one imaging probe that eliminates the old cervical cancer screening techniques, assuring efficiency and a better chance of recovery for patients, including pregnant patients. The new probe offers a real-time three-dimensional colposcopy diagnosis using low-coherence laser light to conduct spatial imaging and spectral sensing for tissue diagnosis, and the detailed guidance to physically biopsy suspicious lesions. You can learn more about one of the UCF researchers who developed the technology, Peter Delfyett, Ph.D., in this month’s Faculty Feature (coming soon).

Additionally, UCF breast cancer researcher, Annette Khaled, Ph.D. has developed a nanoparticle-based technology for targeted treatment of metastatic breast cancer, for which the current five-year survival rate is just 22 percent. Many of the currently available treatments generally involve chemotherapy, which can have toxic side effects due to a lack of specificity. With her immunology expertise, Khaled is getting closer to transforming metastatic cancer from an inevitable death sentence to a curable disease.

For more information about UCF’s cancer-fighting initiatives, contact Brion Berman.

By: Kathleen Snoeblen


Clean Hydrogen: An Abundant Alternative to Fossil Fuels

April 7, 2017

water molecule splitting

Long known to be a finite source of energy, fossil fuels have not really “peaked” and dried up as once predicted in the 1970s. The development of shale oil and newly found sources of natural gas in recent years promise an extended period of abundant, cheap fossil fuels, and experts predict that North America might be energy independent by the next decade.

Yet, the world’s continued use of fossil fuels will only vent more greenhouse gases (GHGs) like carbon dioxide (CO2) into earth’s atmosphere. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), GHGs pose “significant risks to humans and the environment.” In its report, “Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action,” the EPA estimates that in the U.S. alone, billions of dollars and thousands of lives can be saved with GHG mitigation efforts. Mitigation examples include phasing out fossil fuels and replacing them with alternative fuels (such as hydrogen and biomass sources) and renewable energy (solar, geothermal and wind for example). Other mitigation actions include expanding forests to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or using production methods that reduce emissions.

One alternative fuel that has gained worldwide support is hydrogen. NASA has used hydrogen to power the space program since 1958, and giant carmakers Toyota and Honda are already marketing cars that run on hydrogen fuel cells.

The most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen makes up more than 90 percent of all known matter. Odorless, colorless and non-toxic, hydrogen is the lightest and smallest element. Hydrogen is also non-corrosive, but it can make some metals brittle. It becomes a gas under atmospheric conditions and is about 14 times lighter than air and 57 times lighter than gasoline vapor. When released into an open area, hydrogen quickly rises and disperses.

Why hydrogen? According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), hydrogen holds promise for growth in both the stationary and transportation energy sectors. It can be produced from diverse domestic resources. A hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle produces zero GHG emissions; the only byproducts are water vapor and warm air.

Hydrogen is not an energy source, but an energy carrier like electricity, and it only exists in combination with other elements. For example, hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water; it combines with hydrocarbon chains to form fossil fuels. The energy in 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of hydrogen gas is equivalent to the energy in 1 gallon (3.79 liters) of gasoline.

Scientists have developed different methods to separate hydrogen from its combined forms (such as water and natural gas) using solar power, fossil fuels or nuclear energy. Hydrogen can be rejoined with oxygen to run an internal combustion engine or (more popularly) used in a fuel cell to generate electric power for devices such as computers or electric cars.

Currently, the most widely used hydrogen production process is steam methane reformation (SMR), but the process also produces a lot of CO2, known to contribute to the global rise in temperature more than all other greenhouse gases combined. The atmospheric lifetime of CO2 is also longer (hundreds to thousands of years), and in high concentrations, it is deadly. With the SMR process, about 10 tons of CO2 results from the production of 1 ton of hydrogen.

In comparison to SMR, an invention developed by researchers at UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center offers a cleaner way to produce hydrogen. The invention introduces a new type of solar thermochemical water splitting cycles method. In principal, water can be split into a hydrogen part and an oxygen part. However, the process requires a very high temperature—more than 2,000 C, or electricity, like plasma or electrolysis. One way around the high temperature requirement is to use water-splitting cycles. “So instead of splitting water in one step, you are splitting water in several steps, usually in about three or four steps,” said Nazim Muradov, Ph.D., one of the inventors. Each step uses a lower temperature. For example, the first step only requires ambient temperature; the second step requires about 800 or 900 C, and the third step requires the same. The process is analogous to climbing a flight of stairs. A person can exert a lot of energy to jump to the top step or use less energy by walking up several steps to get to the top.

In the cycles, both solar photonic energy and solar thermal energy are used to ensure higher cycle efficiencies. The cycles match the energy content of the solar spectrum to the energy requirements of these cycles. For more details about the invention, refer to the technology sheet: Produce hydrogen fuel from water using solar energy.

Muradov is a well-known and well-respected pioneer in hydrogen research and was recently selected to be a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). For more information about Muradov and his current research, see this month’s faculty feature: FSEC Researcher Recognized for Inventions and Advances in Hydrogen Energy Research.