Bioelectronics is the application of electrical engineering principles to biology, medicine, behavior or health. It advances the fundamental concepts, creates knowledge for the molecular to the organ systems levels, and develops innovative devices or processes for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, for patient rehabilitation, and for improving health.
Bioelectromagnetics, instrumentation, neural networks, robotics, and sensor technologies are some of the disciplines necessary to develop new understanding and products in this area. A keystone of this research area is the building of real-world devices and systems. Onsite facilities for prototyping and testing instrumentation systems, fabricating and measuring the performance of implantable devices, building robotic prostheses, are readily available. New sensors and sensor arrays are microfabricated in a 2,000 sq ft cleanroom.
Applying Algorithms to Develop Drought-Resistant Crops
Professors Cranos Williams and James Tuck joined an interdisciplinary team to develop an algorithm that is able to identify genes associated with specific biological functions in plants—helping plant biologists target individual genes that control how plants respond to drought, high temperatures, or other environmental stressors.
Bioinstrumentation is the use of bioelectronic instruments for the recording or transmission of physiological information. Biomedical devices are an amalgamation of biology, sensors, interface electronics, microcontrollers, and computer programming, and require the combination of several traditional disciplines including biology, optics, mechanics, mathematics, electronics, chemistry, and computer science. Bioinstrumentation teams gather engineers that design, fabricate, test, and manufacture advanced medical instruments and implantabe devices into a single, more productive unit.
Bioelectronics have a wide variety of applications, including: electrocardiographs, cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators, blood pressure and flow monitors, and medical imaging systems. The field of bioinstrumentation has seemingly endless possibilities because of its fusion of different fields for the common purpose of developing new and exciting ways of managing and treating disease and disabilities. A few emerging technologies include implantable sensors to monitor treatment effectiveness, anti-stuttering aids, blood vessel compliance measurement, distributed sensor networks for home healthcare, and electronic aids for the five human senses.
The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University’s bioinstrumentation concentration is uniquely designed to give students undergraduate experience in bioelectronic conceptions, design, and implementation. In addition, our proximity to Research Triangle Park provides students with direct access to local bioelectronic employers such as Sicel Technologies, Gilero, and Glaxo-Smith-Kline.
Biomechatronics is an interdisciplinary science that integrates computer controlled mechanical elements into the human body for therapy and augmentation. Most biomechatronic devices resemble conventional orthotics or prosthetics, but biomechatronic devices have the ability to accurately emulate human movement by interfacing directly with a wearer’s muscle and nervous systems to assist or restore motor control.
Any biomechatronic system has four components that make it function: Biosensors, Mechanical Sensors, Controller, and Actuator. Biosensors detect the wearer’s intentions by intercepting signals from the nervous or muscle system and relay them to other parts of the device, such as the controller. The controller acts as a translator between biological and electronic systems, and also monitors the movements of the biomechatronic device. Mechanical sensors measure information about the biomechatronic device and relay to the biosensor or controller. The actuator is an artificial muscle that produces force or movement to aid or replace native human body function.
Current biomechatronic research focuses on three areas: analyzing human motions, interfacing electronics with humans, and advanced prosthetics. In order to create effective biomechatronic devices, it’s crucial to understand how humans move, our electronic devices must be able to interface with biological processes, and advanced prosthetics must be made to push the development of more complex and effective machines.
Biomimetic systems are artificial structures that are inspired by biology. Within bioelectronics, these systems emulate the neural system and are implemented with electronics. An example application is the biosensor.
A biosensor is a device for the detection of an analyte that combines a biological component with a physicochemical detector component. It consists of 3 parts: a sensitive biological element which can be created by biological engineering, a transducer in between which associates both components, and a detector element that works in a physiochemical way.
The most widespread example of a commercial biosensor is the blood glucose biosensor, which uses an enzyme to break blood glucose down. In so doing it transfers an electron to an electrode and this is converted into a measure of blood glucose concentration. The high market demand for such sensors has fueled development of associated sensor technologies.