Special-purpose hand-held radio- transceiver units have been proposed as means of short-range radio powering and interrogation of surgically implanted microelectromechanical sensors and actuators. These units are based partly on the same principles as those of the units described in “Printed Multi-Turn Loop Antennas for RF Biotelemetry” (LEW-17879-1), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 31, No. 6 (June 2007), page 48. Like the previously reported units, these units would make it unnecessary to have wire connections between the implanted devices and the external equipment used to activate and interrogate them.

Like a unit of the previously reported type, a unit of the type now proposed would include a printed-circuit antenna on a dielectric substrate. The antenna circuitry would include integrated surface-mount inductors for impedance tuning. Circuits for processing the signals transmitted and received by the antenna would be included on the substrate.

During operation, the unit would be positioned near (but not in electrical contact with) a human subject, in proximity to a microelectromechanical sensor or actuator that has been surgically implanted in the subject. It has been demonstrated that significant electromagnetic coupling with an implanted device could be established at a distance of as much as 4 in. (≈10 cm). During operation in the interrogation mode, the antenna of the unit would receive a radio telemetry signal transmitted by the surgically implanted device.

The antenna substrate would have dimensions of approximately 3.25 by 3.75 inches (approximately 8.3 by 9.5 cm). The substrate would have a thickness of the order of 30 mils (of the order of a somewhat less than a millimeter). The substrate would be made of low-radio-frequency-loss dielectric material that could be, for example, fused quartz, alumina, or any of a number of commercially available radio-frequency dielectric composite materials. The antenna conductors would typically be made of copper or a combination of chromium and gold. The choice of metal and the thickness of the metal layer(s) would depend on the choice of substrate material. For example, on a quartz or alumina substrate, one would typically use a layer of chromium 150 Å thick and a layer of gold 2 μm thick.

The proposed units and the implanted devices that they would interrogate or activate would be inherently safe to use. They would operate at low radiated- power levels for short interrogation times (typically, milliseconds). Hence, there would be little local heating of tissues surrounding the implanted devices and little absorption of radio energy by such sensitive body parts as the eyes and the brain.

Because the implanted devices would not depend on battery power and would be activated only during short interrogation intervals and would otherwise be in the “off” state most of the time, the useful lifetimes of the implanted devices would be greater than those of comparable battery-powered implanted devices. The compactness of the hand-held transceiver units would facilitate transport and storage and would facilitate self-diagnosis by patients able to handle the units while away from medical facilities.

This work was done by Félix A. Miranda and Rainee N. Simons of Glenn Research Center.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steve Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. Refer to LEW-17483-1.