North Carolina State University is leading a new national nanotechnology research effort to create self-powered devices to help people monitor their health and understand how the surrounding environment affects it.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST), headquartered at NC State, is a joint effort between NC State and partner institutions Florida International University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Virginia. The center, funded by an initial five-year $18.5 million grant from NSF, also includes five affiliated universities and about 30 industry partners in its global research consortium.

With the addition of ASSIST, NC State is the only university in the United States currently leading two active NSF Engineering Research Centers (ERCs), among the largest and most prestigious grants made by the engineering directorate of the federal agency. The FREEDM Systems Center, a smart grid ERC formed in 2008, is also headquartered at NC State.

ASSIST researchers will use the tiniest of materials to develop self-powered health monitoring sensors and devices. These devices could be worn on the chest like a patch, on the wrist like a watch, as a cap that fits over a tooth, or in other ways, depending on the biological system that’s being monitored.