Smaller and much cheaper to produce. That’s what researchers at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) are saying about their new coin-sized biosensing system that reads the body’s electrochemical signals. Intended for use in a range of health-monitoring applications, they’re calling it the “PERfECT System,” which stands for Personalised Electronic Reader for Electrochemical Transistors. With a measurement of 1.5 cm x 1.5 cm x 0.2 cm and a weight of just 0.4 grams, the system does seem perfectly sized for patches and smartwatches that monitor bio-signals. As for cost, researchers say the price is one-tenth of similar commercial technology.

Beyond size and cost, high sensitivity is a big selling point of the PERfECT System, which represents an advancement in the emerging area of organic electrochemical transistors (OECTs). These OECTs are special in that they offer seamless interaction between electronics and biology with high sensitivity and strong signal amplification. They can take and transmit a variety of electrophysiological readings, and have the ability to serve as both the recording device and the stimulation device. OECTs have recently been used in applications that include neuromorphic processing, physiological signal recording, and biological sensing — all of which are applicable to health-tech wearables.

In testing the PERfECT wearable system, researchers say their small device performed on par with current commercial equipment that has much greater bulk, likening PERfECT to a mini electrochemical station for wearables. They say it could be integrated into a number of current wearable systems with low-voltage transistors, offering the ability to aid in the monitoring of bio-signals, tracking things including glucose levels and the antibody concentrations in sweat and blood. HKU researcher Dr. Shiming Zhang says, “Our wearable system is tiny, soft, and imperceptible to wearers, and it can do continuous monitoring of our body condition. These features mean it has the potential to revolutionize healthcare technology.”

To put that bold claim to the test, Dr. Zhang created the start-up SESIC with the goal of making the technology more accessible and a likely eye on the consumer wearables market. Says Dr. Zhang, “We have been able to develop the PERfECT system because of the unique, interdisciplinary culture in the HKU WISE Research Group…the vision for WISE is to promote the transition from ‘hospital-centric’ to ‘human-centric’ healthcare by developing next-generation wearable, intelligent, and soft electronics technologies.”