FlexTech Alliance Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium Receives Air Force Research Laboratory Grant

There has been much interest in the potential for flexible and printed sensors for medical applications. These sensors could wirelessly monitor patients for a wide variety of functions.

While there are clearly consumer applications for flexible medical sensors, the military can also see uses for these types of systems. For example, the ability to monitor a pilot on a mission has major advantages.

With this in mind, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is working with FlexTech Alliance and its other partners on a three-year project to develop a nano-bio manufacturing consortium to develop a diagnostic patch it can use for its personnel. Bringing together world-class researchers and building prototype monitoring devices are the consortium’s main goals. Consortium start-up is expected to be around April 2013.

FlexTech Alliance’s consortium proposal included partners from a mix of industrial leaders (GE, Lockheed Martin, DuPont Teijin Films), research institutes (PARC) and university researchers (Binghamton University, Cornell University, John Hopkins University, Princeton University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at San Diego, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, among other leading universities.)

A total of $5.5 million has been set aside for this project, with AFRL providing $2.2M in funding and the consortium partners providing the balance of the award.

“The Air Force put out a request for proposals for a nano-bio consortium, and we gathered some of our current partners as well as others from outside our group,” said Heidi Hoffman, director of special projects for FlexTech. “As a result, we were able to receive a $2.2 million grant in government funds as well as $3.5 million in industry funds.”

Hoffman noted that the consortium proposed a national project, with an eye on developing manufacturing capabilities.

“The goal is to detect certain diagnostics of the human body, such as stress, through a patch,” Hoffman said. “We are going to develop manufacturing methods that will reduce the size of the patch and give it the capability to wirelessly send back the diagnostic data.”

FlexTech officials noted that the Air Force’s initial interest is in monitoring pilots and support personnel, but companies in the broader health-care field also see commercial opportunities for this technology.

“We are working very closely with the Air Force to develop this technology,” Hoffman said. “For example, this could be used on pilots, and it has broad commercial ramifications as well.”

“Our mission is to deliver technology to the Air Force to monitor military personnel. While the Air Force’s interests are obvious, real-time monitoring of the chronically infirm or elderly, for example, is an eventual commercial application, too,” said FlexTech Alliance CEO Michael Ciesinski.