LONDON As a partner in the 'Healthy Aims' European Union Framework VI project, Zarlink Semiconductor is researching novel in-body antenna designs for Body Area Networks.
Work related to the Healthy Aims project is underway at Zarlink's facility in Caldicot, South Wales and the company has recruited four new engineers with radio frequency and system architecture expertise to work on the project, and invested in specialized software for modelling antenna field effects.
Body Area Networks enable wireless communication from implanted medical devices to a base station up to three metres away, allowing healthcare professionals to gather device performance and patient data.
Healthy Aims program partners are developing a range of medical implants to help the ageing population and those with disabilities. Zarlink was selected as a project partner and secured a significant grant because of its experience in ultra low-power and wireless product design.
Zarlink's research and development activity will focus on novel in-body antenna design and ultra low-power communications systems for implanted devices, such as hearing aids and muscle stimulators.
Transmitting signals from an in-body device to an external receiver presents unique design challenges, including power consumption, frequency, size and biocompatibility concerns. For example, different body tissues – muscle, bone and fat – exhibit varying resistance to electrical signals. Accordingly, antennas for wireless implanted medical devices must be extremely small in size and highly efficient to ensure that signal loss through the human body is kept to a minimum.