Eleven student members of an applied engineering team from NC State University (NCSU) made the trek out to Las Vegas for the third year to exhibit their energy-storing sensors alongside 350 other teams in CES's University Innovations marketplace.
This team works in a mouthful of a lab: the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Nanosystems Engineering Research Center (NERC) for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST)
. The gist is that the students deploy nanotechnology to make low energy sensors that power and analyze data themselves. The eventual goal, says Tom Snyder
, the lab's industry liaison, is to make "completely self-powered devices that are as simple to use as putting on your clothing."
The lab is funded by an $18.5 million NSF grant through 2017 to link "scientific discovery to technological innovation through transformational engineered systems, research and education."
ExitEvent sat down at CES to speak with Tim Shay, a chemical engineering graduate student, and Ryan Hodges, a postdoctoral research scholar. They explained that the current state of sensor technology as it stands is not future proof. Long-term sensors still have to be recharged, maintained and updated over time.
ASSIST develops specialized devices and circuitry created to harvest energy—they're powered by tiny thermoelectric or piezoelectric generators with 200-300 microwatts of power, enough energy for a dime-sized chip to tell a sensor to collect data. They partner with universities like the University of Virginia to create smaller chips on which to run sensors. One sensor already available for licensing
by industry is silver nanowire electrode technology. It's a technology that can safely touch the skin, making it perfect for wearable devices like prosthetics or health monitors.
One vision for these low-powered sensors is for embed in textiles to monitor a person's health or the impact on the environment on physiological signals, serving as an early warning of illness. Any electronic or Internet of Everything type device could be embedded with the sensors, Snyder explains.
ASSIST travelled from North Carolina to showcase its technology to potential stakeholders and industry partners—team members collected over 200 business cards. And after the previous two years' events, ASSIST secured partners with companies met during them.
According to Snyder, the two missions of attendance are to showcase the research being conducted by faculty and students in hopes of securing research partnerships with industry and to benchmark the innovation coming out of the industry. ASSIST's goal is to be ahead of the market so it can provide the technologies showcased in the future.
IN THE PHOTO: Tim Shay, Ryan Hodges and Alper Bozkurt are members of NC State University's ASSIST team working on nanotechnology projects funded by the National Science Foundation. Credit: Jivan Achreja