Significant progress made towards powering wearable health sensors through indoor artificial light energy

15 May 2023

Dr Lethy Krishnan Jagadamma, from the School of Physics and Astronomy, has made significant progress towards powering wearable health sensors through indoor artificial light energy.

The team from the Energy Harvesting Research Group at the School of Physics and Astronomy collaborated with colleagues at Kwangwoon University, Korea, on a study that shows how energy from ambient light sources such as white LED and fluorescent lamps can be harnessed through an indoor solar cell to self-power a motion sensor.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a rapidly growing industry, with projections estimating that it will reach between $5.5 trillion to $12.6 trillion by 2030. The IoT's potential to improve the quality of human life has led to its adoption in several sectors, with the healthcare industry being one of the most promising.

The Internet of Wearable Things (IoWT) is a technology that has the potential to revolutionise the healthcare industry by automating telehealth treatments. Wireless sensors connected to wearable devices continuously monitor human activity and health factors, and collect data, giving clinicians remote access to their patients.

Dr Lethy Krishnan Jagadamma, who led the research for the University of St Andrews, said: "Currently, wireless sensors are powered by batteries which often causes interruptions in data collection and patient monitoring due to the battery recharge required or battery replacement. Often the size and heaviness of the battery cause discomfort to patients. So there is a need to find an alternative source of powering the wireless sensors."

By developing indoor solar cells capable of self-powering motion sensors, the group has made significant progress towards powering wearable health sensors with indoor light energy. This breakthrough research could have far-reaching implications for the healthcare industry, eliminating the need for external power sources and increasing the flexibility and scalability of these devices, leading to a more efficient and uninterrupted system for patient monitoring.

Lead author Dr Shaoyang Wang said: "I am really happy to achieve this work, as we can combine fundamental insights with device applications. Understanding microcosmic physics and employing the corresponding knowledge in real-life is critical for both researchers and industry.
We can create great collaborations with people from different fields, make efforts on new products with new concepts and finally, make our life better. This study employs the indoor photovoltaic device from our Energy Harvesting Research lab as the power source to operate a mini sensor, which is an innovative step towards the intelligent Internet of Things application."

Dr Lethy Krishnan Jagadamma said: "Our research group is dedicated to developing innovative materials and devices that can harness energy from ambient sources. The development of indoor solar cells capable of powering motion sensors is a significant step that has the potential to revolutionise the healthcare industry."

The paper "P3HT vs Spiro-OMeTAD as a hole transport layer for halide perovskite indoor photovoltaics and self-powering of motion sensors" is published in Journal of Physics: Materials, DOI 10.1088/2515-7639/accaaa.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.