1.1 Air Quality

A breath of fresh air
inside and out

Holst Centre deployed two large-scale, fine-grained test beds for air quality monitoring in 2017. The indoor monitoring system in our own building uses carbon dioxide measurements to see if a room is occupied and avoid unhealthy air quality levels. Meanwhile, a real-time pollution detection infrastructure installed on postal vans tracks particulate matter (PM 1, 2.5 and 10) and NO2 levels within Antwerp's City of Things. Both allow the development and verification of algorithms, data analytics and models, as well as validation of partners' new sensor technologies.

1.2 Ion sensors 1/2

Watching the water

Water quality is an increasingly critical issue. Whether its checking that the water we drink and play in is safe, protecting wildlife in our lakes and rivers, or ensuring commercially grown plants and foods receive the nutrients they need, knowing what is in the water is paramount. It is also an inherently multi-parameter problem with hundreds of possible substances – both good and bad – to look for.

Read further

1.2 Ion sensors 2/2

Watching the water

Holst Centre is using its expertise in microfabrication and microfluidics to develop very small, highly integrated multi-ion sensor solutions. Combining features such as printed membranes with established silicon fabrication processes, these solutions could be mass produced at low cost to enable fine-grained, continuous water quality monitoring in real time.

During 2017, we took great steps in extending the functionality and maturity of our multi-ion sensing technology. To the pH and chloride detection shown in our initial proof-of-concept demonstrators, we have added the ability to measure sodium, potassium and nitrate levels as well as conductivity to indicate overall impurity levels, and redox potential. This last functionality could be important for monitoring the use of bacteria-killing additives, for example in swimming pools.

Hundreds of sample sensors were delivered to partners for evaluation and validation in real-world applications. The technology is now being transferred to a partner company for further development and commercialization.

We are now looking at integrating multi-ion sensors into networks and developing algorithms to convert the data they measure into useful, actionable information. For example, our sensors are being deployed in the Interreg V GROW! Project (Dutch only). This EU-funded Dutch-Flemish initiative aims to monitor greenhouse environments through dense sensor networks to improve the yield and quality of crops.

Back to start

1.3 Low-power radar 1/2

Enabling intuitive spaces

Wearables give us unprecedented insight into our health and lifestyles, and new ways to interact with the world around us. But they depend on people actually wearing them. At Holst Centre, we want to move beyond the limitations of wearable devices through intuitive healthy spaces that provide a more natural interaction between people and the environment.

Read further

1.3 Low-power radar 2/2

Enabling intuitive spaces

One way we are doing that is through non-contact monitoring by ultra-low power sensor nodes invisibly embedded into the world around us. In particular, we have developed a low-power radar system sensitive enough to remotely detect a person's breathing and heart rate.

The system works at frequencies below 10 GHz. This keeps power consumption under 10 mW – with further savings possible through implementation choices such as duty-cycle. Just as importantly, these frequencies allow the use of low-cost PCBs and integrated antennas to keep system costs down. Low frequencies also penetrate people's clothes better for more accurate results. With "sub-GHz" frequencies, even through-the-wall detection is possible.

While the system is potentially applicable in healthcare – for example for remote vital signs monitoring – its first application is likely to be in smart buildings. Here its unobtrusive heart and respiration rate sensing could enable improved presence detection systems that can not only detect stationary occupants but can also estimate the number of people in the room. This would enable building service management systems to be optimized to reduce power usage and improve comfort levels.

In the last twelve months, we have produced functional demonstrators with smart algorithms, and shown in the lab that these can detect and count room occupants. We have also developed techniques to improve the technology's range resolution, which could lead to deviceless localization for future indoor navigation and tracking.

Back to start

1.4 Perovskites 1/2

Regularly setting records
in cheaper, greener energy

As the world looks for more sustainable energy options, perovskites bring huge potential for cheaper solar power. They promise high efficiency from relatively simple production processes plus thin, lightweight and potentially semi-transparent modules for integration into buildings and vehicles.

Read further

1.4 Perovskites 2/2

Regularly setting records
in cheaper, greener energy

With our Solliance partners, Holst Centre leads the way in industrialising this exciting technology, regularly setting new standards for roll-to-roll produced perovskites. Twice last year, we broke the world efficiency record for R2R perovskite solar cells and modules – pushing modules above 12% and cells to 13.5%. And this year, we produced R2R cells with 16% efficiency and the first-ever translucent R2R-manifactured flexible perovskite modules.

To the website Back to start

1.5 Secure Proximity 1/2

Secure proximity
gets closer to market

Determining the distance between devices is central to applications from controlling building access control to asset tracking and indoor navigation. While there are established methods for doing this, they are either susceptible to hacking and so insecure or require very high bandwidths, making them expensive to roll out widely.

Researchers at Holst Centre have been developing a new cost-effective approach to secure proximity detection using Bluetooth signals. The technique estimates the distance between two devices based on measurements of radio signals transmitted between them.

Read further

1.5 Secure Proximity 2/2

Secure proximity
gets closer to market

Having already successfully validated the effectiveness of the technique, the team behind the new technology have now built a working prototype using low-cost, off-the-shelf components. Tests on the prototype show that it is robust against strong indoor multipath reflections and is accurate to within 30-50 cm for distance measurements – about 5-6 times better than currently available solutions.

The technique is already more secure than established methods. To go further, the team has designed a physical layer security verification that will be carried out as an integral part of the distance measurement and calculation, making the technique inherently secure.

The approach can also be used to localize the position of a specific object through probabilistic trilateration techniques (based on the difference in distance between the object and multiple base stations). In this case, it is around 4-5 times more accurate than current solutions.

With its accuracy and security, the approach could make many new applications possible. For example, it could ensure only authorized medical personnel can access a patient's medical records and only when they are at the patient's bedside. Or it could enable secure, automatic commissioning of sensors in large Internet of Things networks.

Back to start

2.1 EEG headset

Flexible electrodes bring
extended EEG monitoring in sight

Electroencephalography (EEG) has been a consistent area of interest for Holst Centre. Last year, we took yet another big step with a new EEG headset featuring innovative flexible polymer electrodes that increase wearer comfort while delivering excellent signal quality.

A sleek new design means no expert fitting is required and gives the headset a more appealing look, valuable in lifestyle applications such as music-based bio-feedback. In various trials, the headset was used for up to 4 hours without users reporting discomfort.

2.2 High-density EMG 1/2

When is a contraction
not a contraction?

For expectant mothers, Braxton Hicks contractions feel like "the real thing", but the baby could still be days or weeks away from making an appearance. Confusing these "practice contractions" with the start of labor means a stressful and ultimately unnecessary trip to the hospital. But sometimes early contractions are real, signaling the start of a premature birth. So telling real and practice contractions apart is vital.

Read further

2.2 High-density EMG 2/2

When is a contraction
not a contraction?

Researchers at Holst Centre are developing a new type of medical electrode that could make this possible. To do this, they are integrating our oxide transistor technology (originally developed for flexible displays) with printed electrodes on a flexible film. The result is an array of smart electrodes that can monitor biological signals over a large area.

Integrating IGZO thin-film transistors (TFT) into the electrode array allows basic signal conditioning such as amplification and noise reduction to be carried close to the source – i.e. before electronic connections add extra artefacts and noise. Moreover, using printed electronics processes means electrodes can be place every few millimeters to track the propagation of signals within the body.

Through a technology demonstrator, the team has shown that the electrodes can detect signals in muscle. They are now working to create a prototype maternity belt with a larger sensing array that could track the speed and direction of contractions – making it possible to differentiate between Braxton Hicks and labor contractions.

While pregnancy monitoring is the current focus, the technology could also find use in therapies for neurological disorders such as ALS and MS or post-stroke rehabilitation. Whatever the application, smart electrode arrays offer a non-invasive method to retrieve much more detailed information on muscle activity than currently possible.

Back to start

2.3 MUSEIC v3

All together now for multi-sensor
health data readout

Released in 2017, the third generation of our MUSEIC chip is the most integrated solution for acquiring data from multiple on-body sensors. Capable of replacing five ICs, this all-in-one chip for battery-powered wireless healthcare applications offers the functionality and performance of previous generations plus power management, LED drivers for blood-oxygen measurements, USB and a radio. MUSEIC v3 also features security IP from partners Intrinsic-ID and Silex Inside – giving banking-level protection for users' most-sensitive data. All in a device measuring just 4.3 x 4.3 mm.

Read more

2.4 SWEET study

Largest ever dataset
to help tackle stress

Workplace stress causes emotional and physical health problems for millions. The Stress in the Work Environment (SWEET) study was established to develop stress algorithms to facilitate personalized intervention and feedback strategies for reducing stress.

In the last year, the study collected the world's largest multi-sensor dataset (e.g. physiological, contextual and demographics, psychological baseline) on workplace stress, monitoring over 1000 people. This dataset is now being used to develop a stress awareness app integrating digital phenotyping algorithms, leading towards personalized feedback with minimal input from the user.

2.5 Eye-Tracking

Browsing the web
in the blink of an eye

Holst Centre has demonstrated a low-cost yet precise solution for tracking eye movements through bio-electrical signals. The electrooculography (EOG) in smart glasses demonstrator allows the wearer to control a web browser just by blinking and moving their eyes – so could be used by even the most mobility challenged people. The technology could enhance virtual and augmented reality applications, and is light and comfortable enough to be used in healthcare studies, for example into stress and conditions such as Parkinson's disease. A new version of the prototype will be will be launched at ITF Belgium in May 2018.

 

To the website

3.1 Bluetooth LVDR 1/2

Lowest Bluetooth power ever

Bluetooth is the gateway to the cloud for billions of devices. Driven by the needs of Internet of Things (IoT) applications, the last eight years have seen amazing developments in Bluetooth low energy radios, slashing power consumption by a factor of 10 to around 10 mW. Now Holst Centre, imec and Renesas have taken another giant leap forward with a Bluetooth 5 transceiver that consumes just 2.3 mW in receive mode.

Read further

3.1 Bluetooth LVDR 2/2

Lowest Bluetooth power ever

Debuted at ISSCC 2018, the new transceiver uses a lower supply voltage than any previously reported solution – just 0.8 V. As well as potentially increasing battery lifetimes by 50%, this low supply voltage offers the exciting possibility of powering systems via printed batteries. This opens the door to brand new applications such as flexible and leave-behind sensors.

To achieve the record-breaking power consumption and supply voltage, the team behind the transceiver took a number of innovative steps. For example, they created a novel phase tracking receiver architecture with a hybrid loop filter to enhance interference tolerance. The receiver achieves a sensitivity of -95 dBm even at its lowest power consumption.

In addition, the team replaced many standard analog circuits with digital versions including an all-digital phase-locked loop (ADPLL). As well as saving power, the digital circuits are both more reliable and more compact than their analog predecessors. As a result, the full transceiver design is just 0.8 mm2, including on-chip matching. What's more, the digital-intensive architecture scales better with process technology, future-proofing the architecture and enabling further improvements in size and power consumption.

Back to start

3.2 Fingerprint Sensors 1/2

Keyless entry:
that knows you're alive

Imagine a door handle that, with a single touch, knows who is trying to enter a building. That can tell it is a real person, not some clever model or grisly break-in attempt.

Read further

3.2 Fingerprint Sensors 2/2

Keyless entry:
that knows you're alive

These are few long-term possibilities for the flexible finger- and palmprint detectors currently being developed by Holst Centre. Like our flexible X-ray detectors, the fingerprint sensors combine organic photodiodes and a thin-film barrier with oxide thin-film transistors (TFTs) originally developed for flexible displays. Individually, all three technologies have been or are being transferred to industry for scale-up and commercialization.

The sensors offer a low-cost option for large-area finger- and palmprint scanners. Less than 0.2 mm thick with no bulky prisms or moving parts and the potential to be semi-transparent, they could be easily embedded into objects such as mobile phones and door handles.

Our 6 x 8 cm demonstrator is large enough for the 4-finger scanners used in border control. With the underlying technology already employed in the flat-panel industry, there is a fast route to manufacturing. At 200 pixels per inch (ppi), the resolution is sufficient to unlock a mobile phone. Ongoing efforts could push that to at least 500 ppi, enough for law enforcement agencies like the FBI and to visualize minutia and pores for more robust identification.

By detecting light reflected within the skin, the sensors can sense a heartbeat to verify the fingerprint comes from a live person. Different photodiode materials could extend detection into the near infrared (NIR) enabling new identification verification modes based on hand vein patterns and medical blood oxygenation monitoring. NIR photodiodes could also be used on CMOS for night vision and 3D facial recognition.

Back to start

3.3 Flexlines 1/3

Flexlines:
a flexible prototyping service

Flexible electronics offers huge potential for companies in all areas to enhance the functionality of their products and unlock new business. But it can be difficult for small companies to move their ideas from concept to production. And many companies may not even realize that they could use flexible electronics in their products.

Read further

3.3 Flexlines 2/3

Flexlines:
a flexible prototyping service

To bridge that gap, Holst Centre is teaming up with other leading flexible electronics research institutes from the Netherlands and Flanders in the Flexlines project (Dutch only). Flexlines aims to create a one-stop shop for producing functional flexible electronics prototypes. The institutes will share, develop and tune the necessary processes and infrastructure for designing and producing prototypes. All processes will be compatible with standard TFT production processes as well as injection molding and other integration technologies

The ultimate goal is to expand the range of industries where flexible electronics is used and accelerate its uptake to put the Flanders-Netherlands region at the forefront of the commercialization of this promising technology.

The partners' world-class know how will help companies answer questions such as:

  • What can we do with flexible electronics?
  • Is our idea feasible?
  • Where can we produce products in volume?

 

Read further

3.3 Flexlines 3/3

Flexlines:
a flexible prototyping service

Launched in early 2018, the project will run for three years to allow the various institutes to align and improve their technologies and capabilities through a series of test prototypes. Once that process is complete, commercial prototyping services are expected to be available from 2021.

The Flexlines project is financed via the Interreg V-program Flanders-The Netherlands, a cross-border cooperation program with financial support from the European Regional Development Fund.

Back to start

3.4 Sensors 1/2

Skin-like sensing
in everyday objects and clothes

Inspired by human skin, Holst Centre has developed the first ever fully printed, conformable multisensory surfaces – demonstrating the concept in a shoe insole that can measure your gait. The surfaces feature various types of printed sensors integrated into substrates just 125 µm thick and based on materials that can be stretched by up to 20% without damaging the embedded electronics.

Read further

3.4 Sensors 2/2

Skin-like sensing
in everyday objects and clothes

To make this possible, Holst Centre has created a range novel, fully printed sensors. This includes high-sensitivity piezoresistive pressure sensors, high-stability temperature sensors accurate to 0.1 °C and piezoelectric sensors. Thanks to a unique technology platform, these sensors can be combined into ultra-thin and biocompatible stretchable surfaces with the freedom to make specific areas more sensitive to specific stimuli.

 

The technology offers performance matching state-of-the-art surface-mount solutions, but with much greater potential for customization, cost reduction and ultra-high sensing resolution (sensors can be as small as 100 µm) over larger areas.

This opens the door to a huge range of applications. In healthcare, the technology could be used for sleep tracking, vital sign monitoring and inflammation and infection detection patches. Elsewhere, it could enhance virtual reality systems through motion-detecting clothing or enable early detection of fatigue in industrial equipment through solutions powered by energy harvesting.

Back to start

3.5 Upscaling R2R 1/2

Upscaling R2R

One of the many benefits of flexible electronics is the potential for cost-effective mass production using roll-to-roll (R2R) processes. Holst Centre and partners have established an R2R pilot line that uses slot-die coating to create highly homogeneous and precisely patterned layers of active materials for large-area electronic applications.
Developed and installed with our ecosystem partner VDL, the line features two separate coating steps in series, demonstrating the feasibility of scaling up R2R coating processes to create complete devices in high volumes.

Read further

3.5 Upscaling R2R 2/2

Upscaling R2R

In 2017, the line was instrumental in several key industrialization milestones. For example, it was used to produce record-breaking perovskite solar cells with high yields, as reported by Solliance last year. The line has also been used to create functional OLED devices measuring up to 10 meters long.

These successes were enabled by the high level of process and quality control the line offers. As a result, line can produce 100-nm layers that vary in thickness by less than 1%. It also employs sophisticated web handling techniques to ensure there is no contact with the top surface of the foil on which the flexible device is being created. This helps significantly reduce contamination and related defects.

In addition, the line allows patterning of the active layers through a combination of stripe and intermittent coating to create devices of any length and width. Again, the line offers extremely tight control, allowing 10-m OLEDs to be produced with a precision below 1 mm.

Completely application and material independent, the line supports all kinds of new applications such as smart windows based on liquid crystals or more complex molecules.

Back to start

3.6 Interfaces 1/2

Making objects more interactive
and human friendly

The products we use are getting smarter, better at understanding and responding to our needs. Meanwhile the world is becoming overfull of information. Finding the important things among the background noise is becoming more stressful. Through smart surfaces, Holst Centre aims to help people filter out the information they need, reducing confusion and overload while making objects as smart as possible.

 

Read further

3.6 Interfaces 2/2

Making objects more interactive
and human friendly

We have developed a technology platform for embedding thin-film electronics into plastics that can be shaped into everyday objects. The embedded functionality can include lighting effects, displays, audio and haptic feedback – anything that allows an object to help us in a specific situation by detecting a need and responding.

For example, smart car dashboards could hide all unnecessary information and controls until they are needed. The dashboard remains black, helping the driver focus, until they want to adjust the interior temperature when the dashboard detects their moving hand and lights up nearby controls to guide them to the climate controls.

In the last year, Holst Centre has improved the deformability of smart surfaces, enabling greater design freedom and allowing more surface features such as buttons. Using transparent printed circuits, we have been able to incorporate functionalities such as capacitive touch sensing without interfering with optical functionality.

The technology has an almost limitless range of applications. In autonomous vehicles, it could reassure passengers and other road users that the vehicle has detected and reacted to a potential obstacle. In medicine, it could help surgeons concentrate on the procedure by providing basic audio or visual cues when there are changes to the patient's status that need monitoring. It can also be applied in mobile phones, household appliances or any other object with which we would like to interact intuitively.

 

Back to start

4.1 Funded projects 1/4

Funded projects
Started in 2017-2018

The quality of Host Centre's research is reflected in our success over many years in obtaining funding for projects through inter-regional, EU and other funding schemes. These projects speed commercialization of emerging technologies, stimulating local supply ecosystems and increasing access for SMEs and larger players. Over the last 12 months, we have started 19 such projects.

 

Read further

4.1 Funded projects 2/4

Projects

Partner
Patient-care Advancement with Responsive Technologies aNd Engagement togetheR
Read more


Perses

Research towards a Perceptive Sensing Home Control System


EsAirQ
Environmental Sensors for Air Quality

TWB
Therapeutic services based on Wearable virtual reality and Bio-sensors


GROW!
Smart wireless sensor and data networks in greenhouse horticulture

Dynamore
Dynamic Modelling of Resilience

 

Read further

4.1 Funded projects 3/4

Projects

Flexlines
Pilot line for flexible micro-electronics prototypes
Read more

Enables
European Infrastructure Powering the Internet of Things


DMCoach
Personalized advice for managing Type 2 diabetes
Read more

Secredas
Cyber Security for Cross Domain Reliable Dependable Automated Systems

 

Mnemosene
Computation-in-memory architecture based on resistive devices
Read more


Vitality Living Lab
Developing a durable ecosystem for data-driven innovation and business design around sports and vitality

 

Read further

4.1 Funded projects 4/4

Projects

DenCity
Calibrated dense city sensing network for environmental parameters


iCOAT
Novel equipment for intermittent coating


Silense
(Ultra)sound interfaces and low energy integrated sensors
Read more

SMARTEES
SMART Emerging Electronic services
Read more

ClearPV
Transparent Perovskite Solar Cell
Read more


HYCOAT
Functional Hybrid Coatings by Molecular Layer Deposition
Read more


NEXIS
Next Generation X-ray Imaging System
Read more

 

Back to start

4.2 New Employees

New
Employees

4.3 Onera

Supporting spin-out routes
to market

Holst Centre helps promising innovations find a route to market. Typically, we do that through open innovation ecosystems, networks of businesses and academic partners cooperating to industrialize technologies.

In other cases, we support initiatives to spin-out mature technologies with funding, resources and access to start-up accelerators – everything would-be entrepreneurs need to kick start a successful venture. Launched in 2017 to bring life-changing medical devices to market, Onera is an example of this second approach and is currently developing its first product for the sleep market.

To the website