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The Skintenna minimizes "off-body" signal -- lost power -- by channeling the signal back towards the body using a metal plate. The signal then creeps across the body.  (Source: QUB/W Scanlon)

The efficient little devices resemble tiny hocky pucks and are easily worn under clothes. They may be shrunk to be as thin as 1 cm.  (Source: QUB/W Scanlon)
Medical uses for new "skintenna" technology abound

In an age in which wireless transmitters are invading every aspect of our lives, the human body is no exception.  From RFID implants to wireless equipped pacemakers, scientists are looking to leverage the power of wireless communication to combat disease and aid in identification.

When it comes to medical implants, people often have more than one.  If these implants could communicate, they could work together more optimally and watch for trouble.  Further, they could better communicate with computers or other control and monitoring devices.  However, in order to communicate wirelessly you need a good antenna.

Various designs have been tried with little success. Compact patch antennas, which adhere to the skin are compact, but offer a week signal as most of the transmission is directed out, away from the body.  Mast style antennas similar to those in cars work better, but they are both bulky and they too lose a fair amount of signal to outward transmission.

Now researchers at the Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland have developed a better alternative.  Scientists William Scanlon and Gareth Conway hatched the new design, which resembles a hockey puck.  It channels signals along the skin to reach devices anywhere in the body.  The device is much more power efficient than power hoarders like Bluetooth, which is a definite necessity for the field of medical implants, which rely on long battery lives.

The new antenna exploits the physical phenomenon known as the "creeping wave effect".  This effect involves waves traveling along the surface of the skin, and is how you can hear a sound in both ears that appears directly next to one side of your head.

Traditional monopole antennas involve a long pole standing on a plate of conductive material (such as a car roof).  The plate reflects signals traveling downward.  By turning the plate upside down, researchers discovered they could do the opposite -- reflect signals traveling upward back along the skin.  Scanlon states, "There is a mismatch between the air and the body tissue, which causes a reflection of sorts."

According to Scanlon, the channeling is the key to the device's energy efficiency.  The end result is battery life of body-worn devices could be doubled, he says.

John Batchelor, a researcher at the University of Kent who is working on similar devices, praised the work.  He says, "The idea of inverting the antenna to encourage surface wave propagation around the body is worth patenting."

And he predicted correctly -- Scanlon and Conway have applied for a patent for the work.  Hopefully their research will soon be helping to further the field of medical implants and monitoring devices.

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charge up...
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 6/10/2008 11:09:27 AM , Rating: 2
So I'm guessing this is bad to wear in a Thurnder storm? Unless you are Uncle Fester.

RE: charge up...
By spuddyt on 6/10/2008 11:12:41 AM , Rating: 3
I've got to say, i don't like the idea that any outside forces (be they medically trained or not) could control the speed of my pacemaker.... i mean, what if that connection gets hacked!?

RE: charge up...
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 6/10/2008 11:40:23 AM , Rating: 5
My advise, stay health. When it's time to die, die fast. You will save money too....Low medical bills when you die fast.

RE: charge up...
By EntreHoras on 6/10/2008 2:18:01 PM , Rating: 2
Totally agree.

RE: charge up...
By callmeroy on 6/10/2008 4:28:02 PM , Rating: 3
While I definitely got a chuckle out of your post, and I know you probably just meant it as a joke....the problem with the heart needing a pacemaker doesn't really mean you aren't or didn't leave a healthy lifestyle. Your heart could be off "pace" (to keep it generic) even if you were a health nut your entire life -- working hard at the gym 6 days a week for 3 hours a day, eating nothing but twigs and berries and drinking only water (natural bottle "spring" water of course). So of course living healthy is good in general but don't fool yourself -- you can be the healthiest person alive and some stuff can still hit you.

RE: charge up...
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 6/10/2008 6:25:45 PM , Rating: 4
"you can be the healthiest person alive and some stuff can still hit you."

Once stuff starts to hit you, you are no longer the healthiest person alive... :)

My Grandfather went into a hospital at 96 years of age, normal check up, had minor pain in the leg – was having trouble walking that day – very odd for him, so they ran a couple of tests. The doctor came back to say, Sir you are just getting old, everything is fine. So he and my grandma just needed to wait for my cousin to come back to the hospital and pick them up. (routine visit). Before she came to pick him up, the hospital call my parents, and his other children saying, something does not seem to be right. My cousin and I missed him by about 15 minutes, however 11 family members were there in the room with him and one on the phone when he pasted away. When it's your time, it's your time, however, I can not think of a better way to go... near half the family around you, more on the way, and only 2 hours of pain.
In short we are just not designed to run forever.
Yes, the post was to be funny but really I would rather die fast like my grandfather rather then years of being in a hospital.
I'm glad to give you a chuckle...enjoy them while you can.

RE: charge up...
By AstroCreep on 6/10/08, Rating: 0
RE: charge up...
By Nyamekye on 6/10/2008 5:41:11 PM , Rating: 2
Good one, but at least there is a Microsoft and not ten different Apple like corporations dominating the computer world.

That would be a fate for the world worse than death...scary...

By Donkey2008 on 6/10/2008 1:30:19 PM , Rating: 5
Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology.

RE: :-P
By SlyNine on 6/10/2008 8:13:38 PM , Rating: 2
But I dont want to spend a lot of money.

By HakonPCA on 6/10/2008 1:55:35 PM , Rating: 5
isn't this really just the government finally perfecting its secretive research into Gaydar technology?

charge up...
By cmontyburns on 6/10/2008 12:22:16 PM , Rating: 2
just like krusty the clown on that (fake) plane crash, where sideshow mel said: "i hope his elevated blood alcohol level caused him to burn up quickly".

nah! i'll just wait for borgs to invade earth and start assimillating the "humaaaaaans". (sarcasm)

By sebastianlewis on 6/10/2008 3:08:11 PM , Rating: 2

If you can stand the market speak (I can barely hold out myself), they show a way for transmitting wireless signals through the human touch, even if the mobile phone is in your pocket. That could theoretically be adapted for medical applications, couldn't it?


By Alexstarfire on 6/10/2008 4:02:28 PM , Rating: 2
I noticed at the end that they said the idea is worth patenting. I hope they only patent the device and not the way it works, because they shouldn't be able to patent something based off a natural physical aspect.

V 2.0
By ADDAvenger on 6/10/2008 6:12:15 PM , Rating: 2
Fine Idea.
By JonnyDough on 6/11/2008 12:04:29 PM , Rating: 2
Any long-term damage though?

Also, they've developed/are developing generators that operate off of blood flow. Could that be used to power this thing?

By UnlimitedInternets36 on 6/12/2008 9:27:42 AM , Rating: 2
This technology isn't new. This creeping effect can also be used to transmit information into the body were all some of usual hypnosis effect can be implemented unbeknown to the wearer.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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