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NDSU Researcher Integrates Electronics Into Diapers

By Karen McIntyre, senior editor | October 8, 2013

RFID system can make adult diaper changes more efficient.

Researchers at the North Dakota State University are developing ways to integrate an RFID system into adult diapers to allow nurses and other caregivers to know exactly when their patients need to be changed. This system would reduce diaper costs and lessen the workload in nursing homes.

According to Val Marinov, associate professor of manufacturing engineering at NDSU, the RFID systems within the diapers consist of an antenna printed on the diaper substrate and a wafer chip that automatically detects wetness and sends a signal to the caregiver.

“We have integrated low-cost, passive wireless RFID sensors into adult incontinence items,” he says. “The signal changes when the permeativity of the antenna changes or gets wet.”

The technology in play is known as Laser Enabled Advanced Packaging (LEAP), which was developed by a team of researchers led by Marinov. This electronics manufacturing technology can significantly reduce the size and unit cost of microelectronic devices. It can enable high-volume handling, placement and interconnection of microelectronic components smaller than ever before possible, according to university literature.

Described as a comprehensive wafer-to-product electronic packaging technology for high-throughput, low-cost, contactless assembly of ultrathin semiconductor chips onto rigid and flexible substrates, LEAP has been under development by the Advanced Electronics Packaging research group at the NDSU Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) in Fargo since 2008.

Marinov says the technology can better manage high volume diaper use in nursing homes where patients are typically changed on a set timetable regardless of need. This can lead to unnecessary diaper changes that create higher costs or even delayed diaper changes, which can lead to irritations or even infections.

With the system embedded into the diaper, the caregivers can be alerted when the patients soil themselves with the help of an in-room sensor that relies on the Ethernet to send a signal to the nursing station. The estimated costs for the system are 10 cents per diaper for the sensor, $150 for each reader that needs to be installed in the patient’s bedroom and $1000 for the software application to monitor.

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