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ECE Professor Pai-Yen Chen Improves Readers on Implantable Wireless Sensors

Borrowing a concept from quantum mechanics, a researcher from UIC’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department is improving our ability to get crucial health information from sensors embedded in medical implants.

Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Associate Professor Pai-Yen Chen has greatly improved a reader that is integrated with wireless micro- and nano- sensors. He, along with Ramy El-Ganainy at Michigan Technological University, and Demetrios Christodoulides at the College of Optics and Photonics, University of Central Florida, used parity-time (PT) symmetry to increase the sensitivity and resolution of sensors used in wireless implants, resulting in far more accurate, clearer results. These implants are used in medical settings for monitoring heart failure, intraocular pressure and blood pressure, and could also have huge benefits outside of medical applications, including robotics, and radio frequency (RF) sensors in vehicles, airplanes and in other harsh environments.

Chen said he was attending an applied physics conference listening to a lecture on PT symmetry when he realized they could use the approach in an RF circuit.

“We don’t change the whole system or the sensor itself, but the way we read the results by means of wireless interrogation. It’s a very different approach,” said Chen. “Any small change in the microsensor’s electrical impedance due to, for example, physical forces can cause a large shift of resonant frequency seen in spectra of backscattered RF signals. Such results imply that sensitivity and resolvability of microsensors can be boosted.”

Chen is currently working with the UIC College of Medicine on a prototype of a PT symmetric wireless intraocular pressure (IOP) sensor, with hopes of potential commercialization. Eye pressure is the only known sign of glaucoma, which affects about three million Americans and is a leading cause of blindness.

Chen’s research group focuses on conducting theoretical modeling of light-matter interactions and radiation at the micro- and nano- scale, as well as exploring new physical phenomena and applications in the fields of nonlinear optics, optical sensing, photodetection, and energy harvesting. Chen is the recipient of several awards, including: NSF CAREER Award, ACES (Applied and Computational Electromagnetics Society) Early Career Award, SPIE Rising Researcher Award, IEEE Sensors Council Young Professional Award, IEEE Raj Mittra Travel Grant (RMTG) Award, Young Scientist Awards from URSI General Assembly and URSI Commission B: Electromagnetics, DoD and DoE fellowships.

To learn more, visit his research group’s webpage.