Nano-electronics and smart systems help mice walk and climb stairs after spinal cord injury. The NEUWalk Project led to the design of novel neuro-prosthetic systems that could allow individuals suffering from severe spinal cord injury (SCI) to walk again, and even help Parkinson's disease patients. Micro- and nano-electronics is at the core of a complex electric stimulation probe implanted directly on the spinal cord of the patient. The probe helps the brain re-establish its connection with the limbs, as this has been destroyed by the injury. This enables a partial restoration of the patients' voluntary control over their limbs.
The motion and rotation sensors in your smartphone, tablet or Wii are predominantly made by a European company, STMicroelectronics.
European researchers have developed the kinds of diagnostic devices usually seen in action films and techno-thrillers, including a patch that can detect cocaine consumption from someone’s sweat and a chip to find pathogens in food easily and quickly. A cocaine skin-detection patch, which was developed by the LabOnFoil project can detect drugs in human sweat and is currently in the process of commercialisation. The project has also developed a chip to detect bacteria, such as salmonella in poultry at low cost and within hours rather than days, with consequent gains for public health.
A state of the art microprocessor today has about 800 million transistors each of 32nanometers. One sheet of paper is about 100,000 nm thick.
Energy scavenging technologies will soon allow us to build pacemakers powered by the heartbeat itself, discarding batteries and extending their in-body usage to tens of years. The e-BRAINS project develops modules the size of a capsule (2-3 cm) which, when implanted in a human heart convert some of the heart’s own mechanical movement into power. This means patient no longer needs to be operated on every few years to change the pacemaker’s batteries.
Electronics can also make cancer treatment faster and cheaper. The EU-funded project MIRACLE is developing a small, low-cost, fully automated technical device that isolates circulating tumour cells (CTCs) from peripheral blood and then performs an analysis for individual cancer cells. Spotting these circulating tumour cells at the right time could accelerate detection rates. MIRACLE develops a so-called lab-on-a-chip system which picks the CTCs out of the blood, identifies them and analyses up to 20 markers on a molecular level to give doctors vital information on which drugs will work for a particular patient. This can greatly help doctors predict the evolution of the cancer or the individual response of patients to therapy. Real-time testing means patients are only given treatments that doctors know will work on them, which in turn means both fewer cancer deaths and less unnecessary suffering.
Microchips are fabricated in cleanrooms that are about 100.000 times cleaner in terms of airborne particulates (dust, bugs, etc.) than the best hospital operating room.
Ten years from now, electronic components and subsystems are expected to represent half the value of a car. Electronics can significantly increase the efficiency, driving range, safety & energy efficiency of vehicles. The OpEneR project embeds electronic components into the car’s subsystems allowing adaptive cruise control with regenerative braking that takes into account conditions on the road ahead (incline, traffic, weather, accidents, signals…) using 3D GPS, environmental sensors, and car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communications. For example, if an accident happens just around the corner, the car’s sensors can detect it before the driver does and prepare to stop before he can.