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Business and Innovation News

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

The Mobile World Congress and YoMo go nano

by Àlex Argemí

The two major events in Barcelona this week are the Mobile World Congress and the Youth Mobile. Both events organised by GSMA include technologies and outreach activities coming straight from the nanoscale. Other parallel events also feature ICN2 researchers.

The GSMA Mobile World Congress (MWC) is the world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry and one of Barcelona’s biggest annual trade shows. It brings together companies large and small, government ministers and regulators, investors, innovators, practitioners and the international media. In this context, the Graphene Pavilion, organised by the Graphene Flagship and supported by the European Commission and GSMA, is returning to MWC 2019 with over 20 graphene-based prototypes. Two of the showcased technologies were developed by ICN2 (a BIST and CSIC centre) researchers and collaborators.

Graphene in the brain

At the Graphene Pavilion you will be able to learn about the brain-computer interfaces developed by the Advanced Electronic Materials and Devices Group, led by ICREA Prof. Jose A. Garrido, and its collaborators. Together with researchers from the Barcelona Microelectronics Institute (IMB-CNM, CSIC & CIBER-BBN) and the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS), they recently reported unprecedented mapping of the kind of low frequency brain activity known to carry crucial information about different events in the brain such as the onset and progression of epileptic seizures and strokes. Their work was featured in the cover of the March issue of Nature Materials.

Brain-computer interfaces offer up a whole host of possibilities for transferring data directly from the brain to an external device. The technology is being developed within the BrainCom project to record and interpret the wealth of electrical signals underlying speech formation in the brain. Based on ultraslim graphene sensors and supported by microchips, this technology will allow signals to be read from as many as 10,000 recording sites on the brain’s surface.

An electroluminescent gas detector

The other ICN2 technology showcased at the Mobile World Congress is a graphene-based electroluminescent gas detector developed by the ICN2 NanoBioelectronics and Biosensors Group led by ICREA Prof. Arben Merkoçi. The prototype consists of a screen-printed electroluminescent display with different sensing capabilities. It contains a layer of a graphene oxide nanocomposite which becomes conductive in response to certain changes in the air composition. As a result, light appears in a reversible way with a direct relationship between the light intensity and the conductivity, thus allowing a quantitative measurement using a portable device with a camera.

The device can be functionalised to respond with light to certain environmental changes. New developments are oriented to making it sensitive to gases such as CO, CO2 or NO. Its features could be expanded in the future for recognizing specific gases, pollutants and health-related indicators providing a visual light outcome. The device was recently described in a work in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces with Dr. Ruslan Álvarez-Diduk among its authors. The demo showcased at the MWC was developed in collaboration with the ICN2 Mechanical Workshop.

Education and beyond

The collaboration of the ICN2 with GSMA also spans towards educational activities presented at the Youth Mobile Festival (YoMo), an event held in parallel to the MWC aimed at a young public and the education community. In the main mSchools booth the ICN2 will be offering an activity to introduce visitors to the nanoscale and its effects in our everyday life. The experience is based in the educational materials developed by mSchools and NanoEduca (ICN2, UB, UAB and CESIRE), which was recently awarded the National Science Communication Award, to explore the concept of nanoscience with a special focus on superhydrophobicity. The workshop includes superhydrophobic materials designed by the ICN2 Phononic and Photonics Nanostructures Group. Next Thursday the materials will also be presented in an activity oriented to teachers that will explore them in the classroom.

Finally, the ICN2 is also involved in other parallel events such as the Fifth edition of the “Technology for the future of medicine”, held on February 19 at the Hospital de Bellvitge. ICREA Prof. Jose A. Garrido (ICN2), ICREA Prof. Mavi Sánchez (IDIBAPS) and ICREA Prof. Alfonso Valencia (BSC) explored different revolutionary approaches to the medical practice.