The unit will mainly focus on research in the field of nanotechnologies, advanced sensors and wearable devices to promote the use of innovative materials. It is composed of  researchers belonging to different realities, also different from UniSalento, such as the IIT research center. Specifically, the unit is engaged in designing innovative sensors to be simply integrated within clothes or accessories, give them a smart character and allow an efficient biophysical and environmental parameters detection. In this context, the research group deals with the development of soft sensing devices based on flexible materials (polymers or conductive fabrics, composite materials enriched with fillers/nanoparticles, conductive fibres, responsive hydrogels) exploited to confer or modify intrinsic clothes properties for detecting the interested parameters and by exploiting different transduction mechanisms (optical, inductive, piezoelectric, capacitive and resistive).

The research unit will rely on the use of equipment in various laboratories focused on smart and innovative sensors affiliated to the I-STORE center. In particular, the unit involves the science and technology laboratories of polymeric materials to synthesize new materials, as well as those of electronic design, to design the electronic sections for acquisition and conditioning of the signals provided by the innovative sensors designed. The Unisalento laboratories belonging to the SENSOR Unit are those belonging to the scientific disciplinary sectors ING-INF/01, ING-IND/22, CHIM/05, as well as the laboratories of the IIT research center.

The main application field of developed devices concerns smart healthcare; in this context, smart materials play an important role by allowing various applications in the healthcare field, given their responsiveness to external stresses, mechanical stress, light, temperature, humidity or the pH of the skin. The research unit will develop flexible and conformable sensors that allow the detection of the patient’s vital signs (HR-heart rate, SpO2, RR-respiration rate, body temperature, blood pressure, bioimpedance, etc.), exploiting transduction mechanisms that require direct contact with the user’s skin. This approach enables several advantages such as continuous monitoring, reduced health costs and hospitalization times and a more straightforward prescription of preventive care, crucial for elderly people and infants. Moreover, the designed sensing devices for monitoring biophysical and environmental parameters are featured by small sizes, reduced power consumption, non-invasiveness and flexibility, fundamental requirements for developing the next generation of wearable devices.

Particular attention is paid to synthesising biocompatible piezoresistive and piezoelectric layers, synthesized by physical vapour deposition (sputtering of reactive ions) and post-processed in a cleanroom to produce highly flexible sensors. These transducers allow the detection of human body movements, allowing the extraction of interest parameters related to joint movements or cardio-respiratory activity (HR, BP, RR, swallowing). Based on polyamide substrates, these devices allow simple integration with electronic sections for conditioning and signal acquisition, power management and wireless communication.