NSERC grant boosts research on tiny sensor with great potential in biomedicine

With a new $25,000 grant in hand, electronics Prof. Langis Roy is pushing ahead with a wireless radiation sensing device that has enormous potential application in the medical field.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Engage Grant, designed to give Canadian-based companies access to the unique knowledge and expertise available at Canadian universities, will enable Roy to support two graduate students and an assistant to develop specialized test fixtures and to create the next round of devices based on a sensor recently invented by graduate student Behzad Yadegari.

In conjunction with Best Medical Canada Ltd., an Ottawa-based company internationally recognized for its expertise in radiation measurement devices, Roy’s research team will enhance the x-ray sensor so that it can be fitted onto blood bags undergoing irradiation in preparation for transfusion.

The sensor came out of Yadegari’s research for his master’s in electrical and computer engineering at Carleton. He developed a prototype for monitoring and reporting radiation dosages being administered to cancer patients. Now pursuing his doctoral degree, Yadegari is upgrading the sensor to be battery-less, wireless, inexpensive and more accurate. He is determined to create a functional sensor device that will benefit medical practitioners and their patients.

“Yadegari,” says Roy, who is also an associate dean with the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs, “is the single greatest asset for this project. He is motivated academically, has a broad knowledge of the biomedical and dosimetry fields, and is a team leader.”

The six-month NSERC-funded project will allow the team to enhance Yadegari’s preliminary design and confirm its commercial viability.

The wireless sensor’s radio frequency ID function will provide such data as radiation dose and temperature range, and monitor the blood through its full cycle. The sensor, on a tiny single chip, will reduce blood wastage due to human error, and lower costs.

“But we don’t have to limit x-ray dosimeters to blood sterilizers,” adds Roy. “Other applications are possible in the whole field of radiotherapy treatments, to prevent over-radiation. We will not be exploring that potential with this grant, but if we are lucky, we will get three years of funding to tackle longer-term issues and align all kinds of new research.”

Roy points out that the silicon technology employed in his research in wireless communications has never been attempted in x-ray sensing and the idea of providing a single-chip solution for administering doses of radiation is exciting.

“This project hits all the right buttons when it comes to Carleton’s institutional priorities,” Roy adds. “It’s an industry-academic partnership and blends multiple disciplines. It also hits squarely on the theme of research that focuses on tangible outcomes.”

This phase of the project, which began in August, will continue until January.

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