Antennas for Healthcare and Imaging

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary University of London


Antennas control, direct and filter electromagnetic waves and form a key component of the microwave wireless communications revolution . Future developments will climb the frequency spectrum to embrace millimetrewaves, where for example 60GHz offers short-range communication with Gigabit bandwidths. Microwave wireless communications will move from the largely social voice/text media to a wide range of monitoring applications via sensor networks, and patient health telemetry /monitoring /control via on-body and in-body sensors and actuators will be a major user of this technology. Indeed medical and healthcare application of microwaves for treatment and communication is rapidly becoming a major worldwide growth area. Electronic implants to aid patents on a permanent or temporary basis are also seeing major growth, with international companies investing massively in R&D. Coincident with this technology there has been a massive increase in healthcare provision in the UK combined with an associated revolution in how treatment is offered to the patient. The simplicity and utility of technologies such as UWB, Bluetooth, GSM and 3G with voice, data, and streaming video offers much to healthcare. In the field of imaging short pulse microwave UWB offers non-ionising screening technology for cancer detection, whilst Terahertz (THz) radiation has enormous potential for a broad range of applications from health care to security, with spectroscopic materials analysis and atmospheric sensing of special scientific importance. It has already proven to be a valuable tool for applications including chemical spectroscopy (to detect biohazards and label-free sensing of genetic sequences), security imaging, non-destructive testing, cutaneous imaging and wireless communication at data rates exceeding 10Gb/s. This grant aims to focus our antenna, on/body propagation and metamaterial expertise into these areas by deploying short to medium term PDRA effort on feasibility studies or proofs of concept, which, if successful, would lead to full proposals being submitted.


10 25 50
Description This grant finished in August 2013 and has supported (via PDRA support) the following research topics:

Terahertz Imaging and Spectroscopy:

• 8 month project to investigate soft-condensed materials such as water and protein's dynamics in the Terahertz ranges. PI= Dr Robert Donnan. The work significantly focused on analysis of bulk water and biological water's THz dynamical differences, which concluded with fundamentally different impacts to molecule's THz vibrations. The work provides important information in potential screening of molecules to inhibit the oligomers and amyloid plaque processing. During this period, the work had also been extended into THz spectroscopies in Nanoparticle solutions and human skins. Work lead to Dial a molecule grant below.

• Dial a Molecule: Coherent Control of Chemistry: "selective activation of chemical bonds by active coherent THz", PI= Dr Robert Donnan: Status: Funded in August 2010 by EPSRC Chemistry Bright IDEAS Award EP/IO14845/1, Dec. 2010

• Continuation of the above dial-a-molecule project. PI= Dr Robert Donnan. This work initially focused on the influence and probes of weak intermolecular bonding through THz energy, which will have huge impact on the pharmaceutical industries with product's bioavailability, manufacturing process and drug shelf life. Status: resulted in publication of Chemical Society Review, (2012) and Chemical Physics Letters, (2013). Postdoc now taken lectureship at Univ. Bolton (2013).

• TAICHI - Terahertz Applied to gaining Insight into Chemical Harmonic Interactions, PI= Dr Robert Donnan. Project seeks to introduce two THz measurement systems from the electrical engineering community to the bio-chemistry community, and aims to demonstrate that quasi-coherent phenomena lay themselves open to detection that offers compelling insight into long-standing questions and grand-challenges in catalytic chemistry and structural biology. ERC - Consolidation Grant Application. Status: submitted Feb 2013, not funded.

• Currently 3 PhD studentships received based on this work: (i) identifying THz markers for dynamically tracking protein conformation; (ii) exploring the possibility of EBG-engineering of a hot surface so that the spectral emissivity envelope is re-shaped to give enhanced THz radiance (and is transformed to be coherent); (iii) devising means to improve laser-to-THz generation efficiency from photo-conductive antennas.

Microwave and Millimetrewave Imaging

• Active Quasi-Optics for High-Power THz Science: PI= Dr Rostyslav Dubrovka, With industrial collaboration from Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory; Status producing a high power source for imaging applications, this research was submitted to EPSRC as a responsive mode grant and was awarded in July 2013.

• MMW imager for concealed target detection: PI=Prof. Clive Parini; Status: undertaken system study using novel EBG superstrate antenna, key publication IET MAP "Millimetre Wave Imaging System at 95 GHz --Quantitative Performance Evaluation".

• "A portable UWB imaging system", PI= Prof. Xiaodong Chen; Low cost technology suitable for the detection of concealed/hidden metallic objects. Currently being funded by QM Innovation Fund (EPSRC and HEIF) and Chinese Scholarship Council (Two PhD students) plus patent application is in progress.

• UWB antenna work formed part of TSB proposal "MiSCAN (Microwave Imaging for Screening of Cancer): A prototype system for diagnosis of superficial and deep tumors". PI=Prof. Clive Parini; With industrial partner MediWise, and University partner Kings College London, submitted July 2013, not funded.

Advanced materials for imaging Antennas

• Microwave Modelling of Single Multi-Wall Carbon Nanotubes: PI= Prof Yang Hao; Status: Work in collaboration with University of Cambridge Engineering in fabrication of Vertically Aligned Carbon Nanotube (VACNT) forest and experimental microwave permittivity extraction measurements showed absorbing performance of VACNT films offers a 90% size reduction for absorber.

• Exploiting epsilon-near-zero (ENZ) property for novel applications: PI= Prof Clive Parini; Status: devised a range of "optical components" including couplers and multiplexers. PDRA left in Sept. 2011, now taken up an academic post in Bangladesh (March 2012).

• Antennas & Electromagnetic Sensors For Future Implantable Devices. PI= Prof. Yang Hao, Status: Published IET paper "Narrow-beam azimuthally omni-directional millimetre-wave antenna using free-formed cylindrical woodpile cavity" in 2010. Supported PDRA after PhD graduation, who then joined Rutherford Appleton Labs in May 2009.

• Work contributed to the EPSRC Programme grant award "The Quest for Ultimate Electromagnetics using Spatial Transformations- QUEST", PI= Prof Yang Hao, consortia partners Oxford University (Materials dept.) and Exeter University (Physics dept.). Grant awarded July 2011.


• Encapsulated Gold Nanoparticles for Non-invasive RF cancer treatment: PI= Prof. Xiaodong Chen; Status: Extensive support has been provided to understand this complex scientific issue, key paper published in Royal Chemistry Society Nanoscale. Several PDRA's have worked on this project and have subsequently taken up academic lectureship posts in China and Singapore; a joint proposal with Schools of Material Science and Medicine of Queen Mary, entered the 2nd phase of selection of EPSRC Nanotechnology Grand Challenges: Healthcare Programme without success.

• Interaction of EM fields with neuronal growth: Status: new pump priming research area commenced. Postdoc (Timotijevic) now appointed as QM academic staff (2013) and this work is continuing with internal QM support.

• RF detection of human body fat: PI = Prof Xiaodong Chen; this feasibility study was jointly funded by Philips Research. Two PDRAs on the project took up lectureships in UK and China afterwards.

• Study of human cells exposure to very high EM field: PI=Prof Xiaodong Chen; the study was jointly funded by Dstl(2011-2012). PDRA(Rehman) now appointed as a Lecturer in University of Bedfordshire. Dstl is now conducting the 2nd phase of the study with QM as a partner.

• Treatment of Tumors Using Ultrashort Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields: PI=Prof Xiaodong Chen; Status: the study is being pursued by a PhD student funded by Chinese Scholarship Council.

• EM fields interaction with humans: PI=Dr Yasir Alfadhl; Status: submitted a tender to Public Health England Call on 'Numerical modelling of humans exposed to RF radiation from smart meters' (September, 2013); QM was invited to take part in a study on 'Low frequency dielectric properties of tissues' funded by Public Health England in October, 2013.

Body centric wireless communications for healthcare

• Smart Antenna Systems for Cooperative Low-Power Wireless Personal and Body Area Networks. PI= Dr Akram Alomainy; Status: follow on support provided from Platform grant for this EPSRC "First Grant", the additional PI support enabled: (i) work on reconfigurable antennas for cognitive radio, (ii) establishment of consortia for EU Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Horizon 2020 program: Measuring, Interpreting and Influencing the Real Human PersOnal ExpeRiences with Smart Devices: Model and Processing, CommUnications, Storing and Energy LimitS (HORUS).

• UWB Based Sensing System for Human Motion Capture: PI=Prof. Clive Parini; Status: PDRA support provided preliminary results, EPSRC Grant proposal submitted October 2012, not funded. Work currently progressing via a PhD student. Spinoff from this technology was the proposal "Technologies for Control of Advanced Telerobotics", which was TSB funded in Sept. 2013. PI= Dr Akram Alomainy.

• Wireless Implantable Biosensors with Advanced On-Body Data processing, PI= Prof. Yang Hao, Status: work lead to successful award in 2010 of EPSRC TEDDI (Transforming Energy Demand through Digital Innovation) grant "Reduction of Energy Demand in Buildings through Optimal Use of Wireless Behaviour Information (Wi-be) Systems".

• Body centric work formed part of EPSRC bid to the IRC call "Sensing Systems for Healthcare" in 2012. "Sensor Platforms for Effective Emergency Decisions (SPEED)" with consortia members Birmingham and Warwick universities. PI=Prof. Clive Parini; Not funded.

• Investigation of on-body Bluetooth transmission, PI=Prof Xiaodong Chen; Status: the study was jointly funded by Sony-Ericcson(2009), leading to a IET publication. The PDRAs on the project took on lectureships in UK and China.
Exploitation Route Terahertz Imaging and Spectroscopy:

Facilities developed and research undertaken aims to be able to understand how cells work, for example how a protein folds and hence to be able to understand how disease occurs when proteins misfold.

Use of directed terahertz energy at specific frequencies to control chemical reaction paths and hence reduce waste by-products and improve yields in the Pharma and Chemical industries.

Microwave and Millimetrewave Imaging:

Improved and compact antenna systems for use in non-ionising radiation medical imaging systems and security imaging systems.

Advanced materials for imaging Antennas

Compact and improved antennas and radio propagation knowledge for wireless human body implantable medical monitoring systems.


Investigating how microwave energy can be used to treat human medical issues such as cancer and to aid neuronal growth.

Body centric wireless communications for healthcare

Understanding antenna design and radio propagation issues for microwave body centric communication links. Applications include continuous health monitoring via in body and on-body sensors, motion capture and gait analysis, trauma sensors.
Several areas are being investigated for exploitation via Patent and TSB support as indicated in the "key findings" section above.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)