SBIR Phase I: Highly sensitive magnetic devices for biomedical applications

Period of Performance: 01/01/2013 - 12/31/2013


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

1900 Addison St, Ste 200
Berkeley, CA 94704
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


This Small Business Innovation Program (SBIR) Phase I project proposes the development of a low cost, small size and high sensitivity magnetic sensor for continuous monitoring and portable magnetocardiography (MCG) of the human heart. Portable cardiography has been limited to electrocardiography (ECG) sensors for decades. ECG is not suitable for continuous heart-rate monitoring (e.g. for in-home use by elderly patients) since it requires conductive (adhesive) electrodes on the patient's chest. In contrast, MCG can accurately record the human heartbeat non-invasively and contactless. Presently, the MCG market is dominated by superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUID), an ultra-sensitive magnetic technology. However, SQUIDs are large in size, power hungry and high cost, facts that have limited the use of MCG outside the medical research environment. The company proposes a novel, chip-scale, highly-sensitive magnetic sensing device aimed to enter and largely extend the portable ECG heart-monitoring market. The proposed millimeter-scale device combines two different technologies: (a) magnetoresistive (MR) sensors and (b) piezoelectric microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) resonators. Through an innovative noise cancelation mechanism, the outcome of this project will show the capability to reach an unprecedented magnetic field sensitivity limit of approximately 1 pT/rt-Hz at room temperature, enough to measure the 10-100 pT fields generated by the human heart. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project offers compatibility with existing high-volume, low-cost integrated circuit manufacturing, offering the promise of a very low-cost (<$5) magnetic sensor chip. It has the potential to change the way portable heart monitoring is done today. By 2009 approximately 27 million Americans were living and diagnosed with heart disease. Continuous heart rate monitoring is crucial for these patients. The company provides a low-cost, easy-to-use, and portable device to meet this need. The impact on patients' health will be huge, given that continuous monitoring will improve prevention and early detection of anomalies. Positive economic impact is also expected. In 2005, the cost of heart disease and stroke in the US was projected to exceed $394 billion: $242 billion for healthcare expenditures and $152 billion for lost productivity from death and disability. The proposed device, mainly due to its small dimensions, is also a very interesting tool for MCG scientific research using arrays of magnetic sensors. MCG enables 3D imaging of heart anomalies, crucial for specific heart diagnosis - for example, finding the source of arrhythmias.