North Carolina State University, Raleigh, will lead a national nanotechnology research effort to create self-powered medical monitoring devices to help people monitor their own health.

The National Science Foundation Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST), to be headquartered at the university, is a joint effort between NC State and partner institutions Florida International University, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Virginia.

ASSIST researchers will use nanomaterials to develop self-powered health monitoring sensors and devices that could be worn on the chest like a patch, on the wrist like a watch, as a cap fitted over a tooth, or possibly in other ways, depending on the biological system being monitored.

Technology being developed by ASSIST using nanomaterials and nanostructures and thermoelectric and piezoelectric materials using body heat and motion, respectively, as power sources, can be used to create devices operating on fractional amounts of energy.

Dr. Veena Misra, the center’s director and professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State, explains, “What’s unique about our technologies is the fact that they are powered by the human body, so they don’t require battery charging.”

These devices could radically improve how to gather and interpret health indicator data, as well as personalized exposure data to environmental pollutants. They could be used to help patients manage their chronic diseases. In addition, they may aid lawmakers in crafting environmental policy and even help to drive down national health care costs.