Research Projects

Terahertz-band Communication Networks

Over the last few years, wireless data traffic has drastically increased due to a change in the way today's society creates, shares and consumes information. This change has been accompanied by an increasing demand for higher speed wireless communication anywhere, anytime. Following this trend, wireless Terabit-per-second (Tbps) links are expected to become a reality within the next five to ten years. Several alternatives are being considered to meet this demand. In this context, Terahertz (THz)-band (0.10-10 THz) communication is envisioned as a key technology to satisfy the need for Tbps links in wireless networks. For many years, the lack of compact and efficient ways to generate and detect THz-band signals has limited the feasibility of wireless communication at such frequencies. However, the refinement of existing architectures and the utilization of new material technologies bring this paradigm one step closer. Still many challenges arise, which require the revision of well-established concepts in communication and networking theory. [More Information]

The objective of our research is to theoretically and experimentally contribute to the development of ultra-broad communication networks in the THz-band commuication networks. This includes the development and fabrication of a novel graphene-based plasmonic technology for THz-band communication as well as the design of a new protocol stack for wireless Tbps in the THz band.

With the support of the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL, 2015-2016), the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR, 2016-2019) and the National Science Foundation (2017-2019).

Optical Wireless Communication for Wearable Nano-bio-sensing Networks

Nanotechnology is enabling the development of nanosensors able to detect different types of events at the nanoscale with unprecedented accuracy. In this direction, in-vivo nanosensing systems, which can operate inside the human body in real time, have been recently proposed as a way to provide faster and more accurate disease diagnosis and treatment than traditional technologies. For example, metallic nano-particles, coated with different dye or Raman active reporter molecules, have been used as surface enhanced Raman scattering labels for multiplexed diagnosis and bio-detection of DNA and proteins with, very high sensing specificity. However, there are several fundamental limitations in the existing approaches. On the one hand, an external and bulky laser platform is needed to excite the engineered nano-particles inside the human or animal body. Similarly, an external spectrometer is needed to measure the reflected signal. As a result, the practicality and the cost of this sensing setup is constrained. On the other hand, the sensitivity and accuracy of existing nano-bio-sensing systems is limited, mainly due to the very high attenuation that the reflected and scattered signals suffer as they propagate. For this, a new strategy for accurate, low-cost and real-time nano-bio-sensing is needed.

The objective of our research is to prove the feasibility of optical plasmonic communication among autonomous nanosensor for real-time in-vivo nano-bio-sensing applications. This includes the development of novel optical plasmonic nano-antennas, the characterization of the intra-body channel from the nanosensor perspective, and the development of protocols tailored to this networking paradigm.

With the support of the National Science Foundation (2014-2016, 2017-2020).

Nanophotonic Brain-Machine Interfaces

For many decades, the interaction between humans and machines has been restricted to the exchange of visual, auditory and tactile information. A conceptual analysis of the existing human-machine interfaces (HMIs) reveals that the amount of useful information that they can transfer is generally not limited by the capabilities of the human brain or those of the machine processor, but by the interfaces between them, such as the sensor organs that are required to handle visual, auditory and tactile information. This is especially true for people with developmental- and aging-related disabilities, whose sensor organs or musculoskeletal system further limit the functionality of traditional HMIs. To overcome such limitation, several brain-machine interfaces (BMIs), which establish a direct path between the brain and a remote machine, have been proposed in the last decade. For example, electroencephalogram (EEG) signals have been successfully utilized to control machines in a non-invasive way and with high temporal resolution. However, EEG-based BMIs cannot be utilized to read the activity from individual neurons, but only their collective response. Similarly, optogenetics-based BMIs, which rely on the use of light to interact with genetically modified neurons in the brain, can be utilized to more accurately read or control the neuronal activity in the brain. However, existing optical devices used for BMIs are highly invasive and difficult to interface with single neurons.

The objective of the proposed project is to establish the foundations of distributed neuronal activity monitoring with cooperative nano-devices for next-generation nanophotonic brain-machine interfaces. Contributions will be made along the following three main thrusts: Design of optical nano-antennas for efficient detection of visible electromagnetic radiation generated by neuronal activity; Development of a neuronal platform for experimental optogenetics; and System-level design guidelines for nanophotonic BMIs.

With the support of the National Science Foundation (2015-2018, 2017-2020).

Providing Wireless Connectivity To Wearable Medical Devices

Major advancements in the field of electronics, photonics, and wireless communication have enabled the development of compact wearable devices with applications in diverse fields such as sport/fitness, wellness, security and healthcare. Beyond simple applications, such as counting steps, keeping track of calories, and measuring the heart beat, medical wearable devices have much more advanced capabilities, which range from wound healing to cancer early detection and monitoring. Independently of the specific application, on-body wearable devices act as an interface between intra-body information sources (e.g., nanosensors, biological processes) and a user's personal device (e.g., cellphone, tablet). On its turn, such device collects the data, performs data / signal processing, and, in some cases, send the information over the Internet to a remote server, ensuring the user's privacy and confidentiality.

The objective of the proposed project is to create an ecosystem (hardware + software) able to provide wireless connectivity to wearable medical devices and, thus, interface the nano and macro scales for advanced healthcare applications. Contributions will be made in terms of nano-to-macro interface hardware design; development of medical-grade communication mechanisms for bio-data collection and sharing, including firmware development for wearable devices; and software/hardware integration.

With the support of the Empire State Development, Buffalo Institute for Genomics (BIG) and Data Analytics, and Garwood Medical Devices, Inc. (2016-2020).

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