An Efficient but Tiny and Flexible Antenna for Wirelessly Networking On-body Sensors

Achievement date: 

A cross-discipline team of scientists has developed a flexible, wearable antenna shown to be significantly more efficient in transmitting and receiving signals than previous versions. The researchers developed the novel, highly efficient and wearable antenna with funding from the Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST), an NSF center based at North Carolina State University.


The new and efficient antennas could prove critical to the development of medical sensor networks to monitor and respond to data drawn from bodily functions. On-body sensors must communicate reliably and efficiently with off-body routers and base stations. The wearable devices demand new, custom-designed antennas that can efficiently transmit and receive such signals, sometimes across multiple bands.


The human body presents peculiar challenges to data transmission, as the wearable antennas must operate next to human tissue, which tends to absorb signals, as well as amid interference from electromagnetic energy generated by the body itself. No general-purpose, commercially available antennas can meet those challenges. Thus, tiny, integrated, and wearable antennas that are highly efficient must be developed for the different frequency bands and wireless environments of medical sensor networks.


A team led by Prof. Doug Werner of Penn State University, a partner in ASSIST, included mechanical and aerospace engineering and electrical engineering experts. The antenna has a footprint, including the metasurface, of only 50mm by 50mm with a total thickness of 6mm. The design achieves an efficiency of nearly 80%, which is much higher than any previously demonstrated flexible and wearable antenna.