Professor Cecilia Mascolo from the Department of Computer Science and Technology will use the funding to further her work on developing mobile devices – like commercially-available earbuds – that can accurately pick up wearers’ body sounds and monitor them for health purposes.
The ERC Proof of Concept grants – worth €150,000 – help researchers bridge the gap between the discoveries stemming from their frontier research and the practical application of the findings, including the early phases of their commercialisation.
Researchers use this type of funding to verify the practical viability of scientific concepts, explore business opportunities or prepare patent applications.
Mascolo’s existing ERC-funded Project EAR was the first to demonstrate that the existing microphones in earbuds can be used to pick up wearers’ levels of activity and heart rate and to trace it accurately even when the wearer is exercising vigorously.
She now wants to build on this work by enhancing the robustness of these in-ear microphones and further improve their performance in monitoring human activity and physiology in 'real life' conditions, including by developing new algorithms to help the devices analyse the data they are collecting.
“There are currently no solutions on the market that use audio devices to detect body function signals like this and they could play an extremely valuable role in health monitoring,” said Mascolo. “Because the devices’ hardware, computing needs and energy consumption are inexpensive, they could put body function monitoring into the hands of the world's population accurately and affordably.”
Professor Manish Chhowalla from the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy was awarded a Proof of Concept Grant to demonstrate large-scale and high-performance lithium-sulfur batteries.
“Our breakthrough in lithium-sulphur batteries demonstrates a future beyond lithium-ion batteries; moving away from the reliance on critical raw materials and enabling the electrification of fundamentally new applications such as aviation,” said Dr Ismail Sami, Research Fellow in Chhowalla’s group. “This Proof of Concept will help us take the essential commercial and technical steps in bringing our innovation to market.”