October 2, 2023

2023 Eaton Award in Design Excellence awarded to alumnus Baibhab Chatterjee

An alumnus of Purdue University’s Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering has been awarded the 2023 Eaton Award in Design Excellence for his contribution to the field of neural implant design.
Baibhab Chatterjee
Baibhab Chatterjee (PhD ECE 2022), Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Florida

An alumnus of Purdue University’s Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering has been awarded the 2023 Eaton Award in Design Excellence for his contribution to the field of neural implant design. Baibhab Chatterjee's innovative approach addresses the longstanding challenges of brain implant communication and demonstrates how design excellence can intersect with the frontiers of biology, electronics, and healthcare. He began this research seeking to revolutionize the capabilities of brain implants during his PhD, under the advisement of Prof. Shreyas Sen, Elmore Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Chatterjee’s research focused on designing an ultra-low power, yet high-data rate wireless microdevice with a vision of creating a distributed network of deep brain/neural implants with minimal end-to-end system loss for data communication. This task has posed significant hurdles in the past. The solution proposed by Chatterjee, which utilizes the conductive properties of biological tissue for signal transfer, has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of neurological and behavioral disorders.

What truly sets this design apart is its interdisciplinary nature. Melding principles from biological science, physical tissue properties, electromagnetics, electronics, and bio-electrical safety, this novel approach seeks to unlock the potential of distributed micro-implants for the brain. Such technology is critical to gaining accurate insights into disorders like Parkinson’s disease, Tourette Syndrome, Epilepsy, Depression, Anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The traditional landscape of wireless solutions for brain implants has been limited, with implant depths rarely exceeding 2 cm due to substantial end-to-end system loss. Conversely, wired connections come with their own risks in terms of prolonged use, which can lead to cortical scarring, gliosis, and even cerebrospinal fluid leakage. The research being conducted by Chatterjee proposes a fully electrical wireless solution that leverages the conductive properties of biological tissue, especially for low-to-mid frequency Electro-quasistatic (EQS) signals, where the end-to-end system loss could be minimized by having no energy transduction, which poses substantial challenges some of the competing technologies. With a lower loss, his design achieves higher data rates with minimal power consumption, eliminating existing limitations.

The innovative communication technique termed "Bi-Phasic Quasistatic Brain Communication (BP-QBC)" stands out as a remarkable achievement. Unlike conventional methods that suffer from significant energy conversion losses, BP-QBC harnesses the power of EQS Signaling. This technique achieves a flat-band channel by exploiting a novel excitation and signal pickup within the brain tissue, thereby demonstrating the potential of creating broadband/wideband wireless data communication in the brain.

Chatterjee says it is a humbling experience to be considered for the Eaton Award.

“The ability to perform low-loss electro-quasistatic data communication in the brain opens up new possibilities of having broadband data communication in wireless neural implants, potentially with 10s, or even up to 100s of Mbps data rates, and with further research on communication and modulation techniques,” says Chatterjee. “This may need a strong collaboration between various universities, research institutions, and industry, and the prestigious Eaton Award will help us create and foster those relationships.”

The impact of this work could ripple across diverse domains. The implications are profound, from neurobiological research to brain-machine interfaces and connected healthcare. EQS signals, with their ability to penetrate the skull and maintain signal strength, have the potential to redefine the landscape of brain communication and data transfer. Notably, the design adheres to stringent safety standards, ensuring its viability for real-world implementation.

Chatterjee envisions a future of continued collaboration and exploration. His research paves the way for a new era in neural implant design and promises to transform the lives of individuals grappling with neurological disorders.

The Eaton Award in Design Excellence recognizes outstanding work in the field of design by recent ECE alumni. The award program was established with a generous gift from Jim and Shirley Eaton. Dr. Eaton earned each of his degrees (BSEE '58, MSEE '63, and Ph.D. '67) from Purdue, and his father was a well-known faculty member in the School from 1942 to 1967. The Eaton Award encourages promising young engineers to continue their work in design by recognizing their early achievements in the field.