The organic matrix developed by the OM research team comprises of a composite of nanomaterials. The nanocomposite can be made up of several or a single material. The active material is an organic polyconjugated material, in which the material is fundamentally build up from π-conjugated small molecule building blocks to form a polymeric π-conjugated compound, also known as electrically conductive polymers.

“Plastics” or man-made polymers have been invented for many years, while traditional plastics we use in daily lives are considered to be insulators owing to their large energy level difference between their valance and conductive band at the molecular level. We were being taught that plastics are good insulator and numerous applications have long been invented using them as electrical shielding materials such as the outer insulation layer of electrical wires. However, under certain conditions, plastics or polymers can behave like a metal or a semiconductor through proper chemical design and synthesis.

OM research team holds the technology to invent new polyconjugated polymers for various applications. Over the past decade, commercialized products using π-conjugated materials have been developed. Examples include organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) used in phone or screen displays, and anti-corrosion coatings on steel or metal surfaces. Through suitable design and modifications, one can alter the energy levels of a conjugated materials to rationally design a suitable active material for specific applications. The engineering technique is known as band gap tuning in the field of organic electronics (OE) research. The ultimate goal of the field is to create light-weight, high performance, and solution processable fabrication for the electronic industry in the future. Solution processing is also an important feature in organic-based electronic materials to produce “conductive inks” for fully printable electronics. Printable electronics open up a new opportunity to fabricate electronic devices by simply depositing the active material onto a device substrate through printing or coating techniques. When compared to traditional methods used in electronics industry which employs mainly inorganic metals or metal oxides as the active material, depositing these inorganic substances often require high energy consuming set-ups and much larger manufacturing scales. The fabrication process of devices also require the use of extreme conditions such as high vacuum or at high temperature up to 1000oC (silicon based electronics) during the device fabrication process.

We developed an organic matrix system that the active material was synthesized from a low-cost starting material. The 1st generation multi-functional sensor comprises of an environmental and ambient stable conductive nanocomposite known as the organic matrix that is capable of detecting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or as a fast-response temperature sensor used to monitor respiration quality of individuals. The fabrication of our sensor chips can be done in ambient in which the precursor ink is simply deposited onto a resistor-type substrate by small-scale coating techniques known as spin-coating or drop-casting (Figure 1a & 1c). The device is then processed by a series of a patent protected procedures and formulation to create an air and environmental stable multi-functional sensor chip. The 1st generation prototype devices have been developed earlier this year (2020 January) to gather individual and clinical data related to respiratory quality (Figure 1b). Preliminary data generated from our prototype device demonstrated excellent device stability throughout repeated data acquisition cycles (Figure 2). OM team expects to collect and extract useful information from the respiratory quality not only from individual end-users, but also to enable the Internet of things (IoT), in order to gather and build up a vast clinical database. Such big data mining would require a multi-disciplinary collaboration, and could potentially grow into a new biomedical system for early diagnosis of diseases or even screening of new drugs that could completely change our way of living and improve mankind’s quality of life.

It is also worth mentioning that conjugated polymers may also have other potential applications ranges from OLEDs, organic solar cells (OSCs), organic field-effect transistors (OFET), flexible electronics, wearable electronics, artificial organs and high sensitivity sensor applications. Our expertise also includes new functional materials development and discovery. Through organic synthesis and the computer-aided calculations, novel advanced function materials are yet to be discovered.

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Figure 1. (a) Deposition of OM 1st Generation conductive ink onto a substrate; (b) OM 1st Generation prototype device for signal amplification and data acquisition; (c) Multi-functional sensor chip produced by (a) Drop-casting technique and (d) Spin-coating technique.

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Figure 2. Preliminary data of respiration quality on (a) Walking (Respiration rate = 24/min); (b) Jogging (Respiration rate = 45/min); (c) Slower jogging (Respiration rate = 30/min); (c) Post work-out breathing recovery. Graph showing a higher to lower respiration rate at time ≈ 22s.