EAGER: Origami-Based, Shape-Adaptive, Skin-Like Wireless Sensors for Monitoring COVID-19 Patients in Field Hospitals

  • Ning, Xin (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


The COVID-19 pandemic has put the public health in great risks, among which the shortage of medical spaces and facilities has significantly curtailed disease control and resulted in higher fatality rate. Deploying field hospitals such as makeshift stadiums and medical tents has been adopted worldwide to mitigate this issue. However, the nature of simple field hospitals and the scarce medical resources in a pandemic make them largely underequipped and understaffed. Therefore, it is challenging to closely monitor the patients in temporary field hospitals, posing threats to those who may experience rapid symptom progression and health deterioration. This project will address this challenge by advancing the fundamental knowledge of design and fabrication to realize skin-like, wireless, battery-free sensors that can be quickly and easily implemented in the environments of field hospitals. The envisioned sensors will be adaptable to a wide range of body shapes and capable of closely monitoring temperature, coughing, and breathing of COVID-19 patients without interference with their daily living. They can also be used in regular hospitals where the medical instruments are insufficient or at home for patients under self-isolation. Overall, this project will explore an engineering pathway to respond to the pressing societal challenges in COVID-19 pandemic. This project will include a 'We Are. We Care' educational outreach plan to cultivate students' passion for engineering innovation to address societal challenges. Undergraduate students will be involved in this research. High school students will be engaged as well through hands-on workshops where they will experience how and why engineering research can impact society and save lives.

The objective of this project is to advance the knowledge of design and fabrication of flexible electronics to realize skin-like devices capable of continuously monitoring the vital health signals of COVID-19 patients in temporary field hospitals, where conventional healthcare instruments are insufficient or unavailable. The devices will employ near-field communication technology to achieve wireless, battery-free sensing of breathing, coughing, and body temperature. To achieve the objective, the PI will use a network of collaborative, high-sensitive strain sensors to realize motion-blind breathing and coughing detection. The PI will leverage deployable origami designs to achieve ultra-high shape adaptability to fit with a wide range of body sizes without customization. This origami-based approach will greatly advance flexible electronics from the current paradigm of local skin integration to a transformative, 'one-size-fits-all' shape adaptability. Sophisticated finite element analyses and mechanical testing will ensure the integrity of devices. Operation of the envisioned devices in models of conventional field hospitals and a new concept of fast-deployable origami hospital will be demonstrated to show the efficacy of the devices. This project centers on innovations of flexible electronics and draws inspirations from other disciplines such as aerospace engineering to advance the field of flexible electronics. Overall, this project will address the gaps between the state-of-the-art wireless, battery-free epidermal electronics and the needs for advanced health monitoring sensors in underequipped, understaffed medical spaces and facilities.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date6/15/205/31/23


  • National Science Foundation: $265,000.00


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