Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Connecticut


Developing novel dry, long shelf-life electrodes for surface electromyography

Orthopedics, rehabilitation, sports medicine, stress assessment and neurology are some of the many fields where collecting electric activity of the muscles is employed. The gold standard for such a task is the silver-silver chloride electrode, which is costly as silver is an expensive commodity. This electrode also needs a hydrogel layer which reduces its shelf life. Recently, we developed new dry electrodes to collect muscles' electric activity, based on a mixture of carbon, salt and adhesive. These electrodes are potentially cheaper, have a much longer shelf-life, and exhibit better performance than the gold standard electrodes. Including carbon to the mixture made it require two cumbersome procedures to reduce the resulting impedance. First, we needed to put current through each individual electrode to align carbon particles; second, we needed to place a conductive feature (termed bridge) to connect the resulting parallel pathways. If carbon results unnecessary for collecting electric signals from the muscles, the electrodes made of a mixture of salt and adhesive would be a more practical alternative. The need for carbon was studied by comparing electrodes with and without carbon in the sensitive component. Six subjects have been recruited so far to collect simultaneous recordings of sEMG signals using electrodes with and without carbon, side-by-side on four muscles in the arm and leg. Signals collected using electrodes with and without carbon were very similar. Furthermore, no significant differences in amplitude were found between the electrodes. Based on measures of noise and motion on the preliminary data set, it seems like adding carbon to the mixture improves the response to motion, but impairs the noise corruption of the sEMG signals.


Low Impedance Carbon Adhesive Electrodes with Long Shelf Life.

Abstract: A novel electrocardiogram (ECG) electrode film is developed by mixing carbon black powder and a quaternary salt with a visco-elastic polymeric adhesive. Unlike traditional wet gel-based electrodes, carbon/salt/adhesive (CSA) electrodes should theoretically have an infinite shelf life as they do not dehydrate even after a prolonged period of storage. The CSA electrodes are electrically activated for use through the process of electrophoresis. Specifically, the activation procedure involves sending a high voltage and current through the electrode, which results in significant reduction of impedance so that high fidelity ECG signals can be obtained. Using the activation procedure, the ideal concentration of carbon black powder in the mixture with the adhesive was examined. It was determined that the optimum concentration of carbon black which minimized post-activation impedance was 10%. Once the optimal carbon black powder concentration was determined, extensive signal analysis was performed to compare the performance of the CSA electrodes to the standard silver-silver chloride (Ag/AgCl) electrodes. As a part of data analysis, electrode-skin contact impedance of the CSA was measured and compared to the standard Ag/AgCl electrodes; we found consistently lower impedance for CSA electrodes. For quantitative data analysis, we simultaneously collected ECG data with CSA and Ag/AgCl electrodes from 17 healthy subjects. Heart rate variability (HRV) indices and ECG morphological waveforms were calculated to compare CSA and Ag/AgCl electrodes. Non-significant differences for most of the HRV indices between CSA and Ag/AgCl electrodes were found. Of the morphological waveform metrics consisting of R-wave peak amplitude, ST-segment elevation and QT interval, only the first index was found to be significantly different between the two media. The response of CSA electrodes to motion artifacts was also tested, and we found in general no difference in the quality of the ECG signal between the two media. Hence, given that CSA electrodes are expected to have a very long shelf-life, with potentially less cost associated with their fabrication, and have ECG signal dynamics nearly identical to those of Ag/AgCl, the new electrodes provide an attractive alternative for ECG measurements.

Pub.: 19 Feb '15, Pinned: 28 Jun '17

Assessment of Carbon/Salt/Adhesive Electrodes for Surface Electromyography Measurements.

Abstract: This paper presents the evaluation of novel electrodes for surface electromyography (sEMG) measurements. The electrodes are based on the mixture of carbon powder, quaternary salt, and viscoelastic polymeric adhesive (carbon/salt/adhesive or simply CSA), which when combined, provide the unique advantages of having longer (theoretically infinite) shelf life and potentially lower cost than Ag/AgCl hydrogel electrodes, consistent with FLEXcon's Patent #8 673 184. The 20 subjects were recruited to collect simultaneous recordings of sEMG signals using Ag/AgCl and CSA electrodes, side-by-side on triceps brachii, tibial anterior muscles, biceps brachii, and quadriceps femoris. Although CSA sEMG electrodes showed higher electrode-skin contact impedance for the frequency range of 4 Hz-2 kHz, no significant differences were found in the signals' amplitude between the two electrodes either during relaxation or contraction stages. Furthermore, correlations of the computed linear envelopes (>0.91), rms value envelopes (>0.91), and power spectral densities (>0.95) of the signals were found to be high between the two media. Detected ON- and OFF-times of contraction were also highly correlated (>0.9) and interchangeable (ON-time: bias = -0.02, variance = 0.11; OFF-time: bias = -0.04, variance = 0.23) between the two media. However, CSA sEMG electrodes exhibited a significantly better response to noise (38.3 ± 10.6 dB versus 32.7 ± 15.6 dB) and motion artifacts (24.1 ± 12.1 dB versus 16.6 ± 8.52 dB), and a significantly lower spectral deformation (1.32 ± 0.2 versus 1.46 ± 0.4). Ag/AgCl electrodes showed a significantly more peaked and sensitive response to EMG amplitude (67.9 ± 13.9 dB versus 65.4 ± 14.6 dB). Given no significant differences in many of the measures described earlier and the fact that CSA electrodes have an infinite shelf-life are potentially lower cost, and are more resistant to motion artifacts, the new electrodes provide an attractive alternative to Ag/AgCl electrodes for sEMG measurements.

Pub.: 31 Aug '16, Pinned: 28 Jun '17

Novel dry electrodes for recording electrodermal activity.

Abstract: Novel carbon/salt adhesive (CSA) electrodes have been found suitable for collecting electrodermal activity (EDA) signals. Ag/AgCl electrodes are considered the standard for collecting EDA signals, because it highly avoids electrodes' polarization. Ag is an expensive commodity. Furthermore, a hydrogel layer is needed for the Ag/AgCl electrodes to collect EDA signals. Adding hydrogel to the electrodes is a cumbersome process. Aforementioned circumstances highlight the need for a more accessible media to collect these signals, allowing EDA use to spread. Dry electrodes made with a mixture of carbon, salt and adhesive has shown to be suitable for collecting bioelectric signals. We have implemented a constant DC-source EDA circuit, with the intention of testing how these electrodes perform for collecting EDA signals. Recruited subjects (N=4) underwent a test including electric shocks, watching a disturbing video and performing the Stroop task. Time and frequency domain correlation were computed. For the obtained skin conductance responses (SCRs), amplitude, onset-to-peak time, and onset difference between the CSA and Ag/AgCl electrodes' acquired SCRs were computed. We found no significant differences on SCRs amplitude and onset-to-peak time between CSA and Ag/AgCl. Furthermore, the difference in onset time for simultaneous SCRs obtained using both media was not different to zero. We conclude that CSA electrodes are a suitable surrogate of Ag/AgCl electrodes for collecting EDA signals on healthy subjects using the implemented DC circuit.

Pub.: 24 Feb '17, Pinned: 28 Jun '17

Novel electrodes for underwater ECG monitoring.

Abstract: We have developed hydrophobic electrodes that provide all morphological waveforms without distortion of an ECG signal for both dry and water-immersed conditions. Our electrode is comprised of a mixture of carbon black powder (CB) and polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). For feasibility testing of the CB/PDMS electrodes, various tests were performed. One of the tests included evaluation of the electrode-to-skin contact impedance for different diameters, thicknesses, and different pressure levels. As expected, the larger the diameter of the electrodes, the lower the impedance and the difference between the large sized CB/PDMS and the similarly-sized Ag/AgCl hydrogel electrodes was at most 200 kΩ, in favor of the latter. Performance comparison of CB/PDMS electrodes to Ag/AgCl hydrogel electrodes was carried out in three different scenarios: a dry surface, water immersion, and postwater immersion conditions. In the dry condition, no statistical differences were found for both the temporal and spectral indices of the heart rate variability analysis between the CB/PDMS and Ag/AgCl hydrogel (p > 0.05) electrodes. During water immersion, there was significant ECG amplitude reduction with CB/PDMS electrodes when compared to wet Ag/AgCl electrodes kept dry by their waterproof adhesive tape, but the reduction was not severe enough to obscure the readability of the recordings, and all morphological waveforms of the ECG signal were discernible even when motion artifacts were introduced. When water did not penetrate tape-wrapped Ag/AgCl electrodes, high fidelity ECG signals were observed. However, when water penetrated the Ag/AgCl electrodes, the signal quality degraded to the point where ECG morphological waveforms were not discernible.

Pub.: 23 May '14, Pinned: 28 Jun '17

Performance evaluation of carbon black based electrodes for underwater ECG monitoring.

Abstract: Underwater electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring currently uses Ag/AgCl electrodes and requires sealing of the electrodes to avoid water intrusion, but this procedure is time consuming and often results in severe irritations or even tearing of the skin. To alleviate these problems, our research team developed hydrophobic electrodes comprised of a mixture of carbon black powder (CB) and polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) that provide all morphological waveforms without distortion of an ECG signal for dry and water-immersed conditions. Performance comparison of CB/PDMS electrodes to adhesive Ag/AgCl hydrogel electrodes was carried out in three different scenarios which included recordings from a dry surface, water immersion, and post-water immersion conditions. CB/PDMS electrodes were able to acquire ECG signals highly correlated with those from adhesive Ag/AgCl electrodes during all conditions. Statistical reduction in ECG amplitude (p<0.05) was only found during the immersed condition with CB/PDMS electrodes when compared to Ag/AgCl electrodes sealed with their waterproof adhesive tape. Besides this reduction readability of the recordings was not obscured and all morphological waveforms of the ECG signal were discernible. The advantages of our CB/PDMS electrodes are that they are reusable, can be fabricated economically, and most importantly, high-fidelity underwater ECG signals can be acquired without relying on the heavy use of waterproof sealing.

Pub.: 09 Jan '15, Pinned: 28 Jun '17