Project Description: The last years have seen a surge in the research and development of solutions for the so-called “internet of things”. Interconnected devices are redefining the paradigms of interaction between human beings and their bodies, the object they own and the space they belong to. The human body, traditional objects and the space, however, are not inherently interconnected and necessitate of an “extension”, in order to enhance their functionalities. Since such extensions have a meaning and a function only when attached to the object they need to enhance, they can also be defined “parasites”. The evolution of parasites towards a different class of technology-enabled objects – or smart parasites – is inevitable, but carries a series of criticalities, which have not been entirely addressed so far by the scientific community. One of the most significant is related to the sustainability of the production of an exponentially increasing number of devices: most of the materials employed in the fabrication of the objects are not environmental-friendly and the fabrication of the electronic components is very energy and cost intensive.
The main aim of SSP is the definition of new methods and tools for the design and the production of smart parasites that are environmentally-friendly, energy conscious, with low carbon footprint and cheap to produce. To pursue this goal, we propose to exploit the recent advances in printed electronics and additive manufacturing, in order to obtain arbitrarily shaped devices with enhanced electronic functions. By employing a design driven approach, with a strong synergy between design and technology experts, we propose three ambitious goals. First, we aim at obtaining prototypes of sustainable smart parasites in each of three categories, namely human body parasite, object parasite and space parasite. Secondly, the expertise and know-how gained through the project will be used for the creation of novel tools and equipment for the environmentally friendly fabrication of smart parasites. Finally, the research on structural and functional materials will lead to the definition of an extensive database of materials, where the aesthetic and functional properties of the materials are classified and well described.
Project Description: The aim of the project is to create a laboratory focused on the production and characterization of physical, chemical and biological sensors for environmental monitoring. The lab is divided into three different functional areas: one for the production of sensors, one for the synthesis and deposition of nanomaterials and one for the assembly of sensors in more complex electronic modules. The structures created in this way can be used for fundamental research in the field of nanomaterials and at the same time for the actual production of sensors that can be used directly in precision agriculture and in the monitoring of health processes as well as production processes.
Project Description: STEX is a project focused on the development of wearable sensors for real-time monitoring of physical activity. The main aim of STEX is monitoring high-performance muscle activity in cycling and running training, using non-invasive and non-obtrusive sensors coupled with internet-of-things type connectivity for data acquisition, processing, and storing. The project´s objectives are based on the development and employment of sensors capable of perceiving different parameters of the muscle activity and that can be correlated with the exercise intensity: the respiratory rate, detected by wearable strain sensors or equivalent technique, and the sweat ammonia, measured by using both polymeric electro-chemical biosensors, gas sensors, and optical-based methods. The project is also aiming at comparatively analyzing the performance and the reliability achieved using the different approaches.
The activities that the Sensing Technologies Laboratories is carrying out within the STEX project are mainly related to the design of printed wearable sensors able to monitor the respiratory rate, and electro-chemical and gas sensors for the ammonia detection in both gas and liquid phase.
Project Description: In recent years, the field of electronics has experienced extraordinary advances, resulting in a revolution, where complimentary to mainstream inorganic semiconductors (like Silicon and III-V compounds) on traditional wafers, completely new materials are paving the way to light-weight, flexible, transparent, stretchable, and even bio-degradable devices. The possibility to realize electronics on such disruptive substrates has pioneered novel applications, such as wearable and textile integrated systems for mobile healthcare, sport and well-being. Furthermore, the wide applicability of this kind of pervasive and versatile electronics for Internet of Things (IoT) technology calls for unobtrusive integration of these devices on everyday objects. The exponential growth of this market however opens unprecedent challenges related to the management of energy consumption and environmental impact of these components. Each device must be fabricated with energy efficient and non-polluting methods and must be recyclable. In this context, the EYRE project aims at using sustainable, environmentally-friendly materials and processes for the production of electronic devices, in order to reduce pollution and accumulation of solid waste and at the same time reduce the manufacturing cost. In particular, EYRE aims at demonstrating the feasibility of manufacturing cost-effective, flexible and transient electronic devices on paper using environmentally-friendly fabrication techniques. At this aim, paper will be employed as a cheap, non-toxic and bio-degradable substrate to realize thin-film transistors and circuits based on carbon-based semiconductors and metallic layers. To realize these devices, the EYRE project will utilize a set of different printing methods, such as screen printing, dispense printing, aerosol jet printing, and spray deposition, which exhibit a lower energy footprint compared to standard vacuum-based technologies.
Project Description: The reliable and real-time assessment of fruit quality and ripeness from the field to the table through harvesting, handling and transport is extremely important in order to meet production and consumer demands, and at the same time drastically reduce food waste. To reach these objectives, there is an urgent need for fast, reliable, cost-effective and portable non-destructive techniques allowing a real-time quantitative-based high-throughput decision making process. Among non-destructive techniques, electrical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) has proven to be a particularly suitable method, allowing a link between the measured bio-impedance and the fruit physio-chemical changes. Nevertheless, the use of bio-impedance analysis for fruit quality control is currently severely limited by the lack of a precise prediction method enabling a direct relationship between fruit quality and ripeness and bio-impedance response. In this context, the interdisciplinary and interfaculty project BIOFRUIT at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano proposes to combine expertise in electronics and sensor systems from the Faculty of Science and Technology with expertise in statistical modeling for multivariate data analysis from the Faculty of Economics and Management, with the aim to develop a solid methodology able to support the whole agri-food sector throughout the entire production chain and fruit market. First of all, BIOFRUIT aims at developing and applying innovative statistical methods suitable for analyzing the complex and high-dimensional impedance data and thereby useful to provide a reliable prediction of fruit quality and ripeness. A further goal of the project is the development of a change-point detection method based on clustering algorithms in order to identify the optimized frequency range required to precisely assess quality and ripeness using both bench-top and portable impedance analyzers. Thanks to the combination of a large dataset of bio-impedance of fruits collected through a well-defined design of experiment and the above mentioned ad-hoc optimized models, BIOFRUIT will enable a significant hardware and software optimization of an already-developed hand-held and low-cost bio-impedance analyzer and therefore a ubiquitous application of the system in an on-field and post-harvest context. The outcomes of the project BIOFRUIT are expected to contribute not only to the scientific communities of statistical multivariate modelling and bio-impedance analysis, but also in the agri-food industry. Furthermore, the project will also have a significant positive impact locally, as the final optimized portable system will be applied to realize a real-time system for harvest time decision and fruit monitoring in the main cultivation in the area, the apple. A dramatic reduction of a vast amount of food waste and a consequent non-negligible monetary saving by local producing companies is thereby foreseen thanks to BIOFRUIT.
Project Description: The project aims to respond to the lack of schools in science and technology education by developing and testing didactic materials and vertical paths about complex phenomena, employing the newest and more advanced devices in the field of printed electronics. It involves the didactic and pedagogic competences of Federico Corni of the Faculty of Education and the scientific and technological competences of Paolo Lugli of the Faculty of Science and Technology at UNIBZ. The underlying pedagogical idea is the introduction of complexity and system thinking into school from the very beginning, from kindergarten to lower secondary school, using a narrative approach supported by an innovative technological platform. Due to the wide range of age (3 to 14 years old), in which pupils undergo strong and important changes in their way of feeling and thinking, the project will differentiate materials and paths according to the pupils’ levels of understanding. Starting from the idea that direct physical and linguistic experience is the way young pupils discover the world, we envisage the possibility that technologies can be used directly by pupils, who will build their own playing (and therefore learning) platform and experience the world of complexity via the interaction of their body with the electronic elements that they have created and assembled.The project will last three years and will result in the production of some prototype for novel validated didactic technological suitcases, on the model of the Max’s Worlds of MultiLab in Bressanone, with self-explanatory teacher guides and instructions, produced in Italian and German languages. These materials will be made available to teachers and to schools, as well as to courses and laboratories of the Mater Degree in Primary Education and possible Masters for secondary school teachers.