Category Archives: education

Electronics in Neonatology

Bij Rico van Dongen, honorary member of the Bioelectronics Group

An Electronic Fetal Monitor, also known as cardiotocograph (CTG), to record the fetal heartbeat and the uterine contractions during pregnancy

On December first of last year I became the proud father of a baby boy, Wouter. Unfortunately, the pregnancy and birth did not go according to plan and my wife and I were exposed to a long period of hospitalization and a lot of medical devices.

It all started October last year when my wife was hospitalized with pre-eclampsia, a form of pregnancy related high blood pressure. The fact is there is no cure or proper treatment for this besides inducing labor and abort the pregnancy. Being only 25 weeks pregnant at the time the survival changes of the baby are already quite good thanks to modern neonatology, but certainly not without complications.

Obviously the best path for our unborn child was to extend the pregnancy for as long as possible and try to control the high blood pressure with medication. Two months of intensive hospital care and almost weekly increasing dose of medication followed.

The heartbeat of our baby was monitored daily by means of cardiotocography, CTG, to check if he could still handle the high dose of medication. The resulting graphs were, according to the doctors, sub-optimal. This resulted in the fact that my wife was connected to this CTG machine for up to 4 hours a day before the doctors were confident again that our baby was stable.

As a father confident in the strength of our child I soon blamed the machine for this sub-optimal picture. It was not long before we realized that almost all drops in heartbeat correlated with movement of the baby. As an engineer, my hands were itching with the urge to re-write the software of this machine and add an additional graph with signal quality to the output.

Weeks of endless CTG and blood pressure medication passed. By the time of the 30st week of pregnancy oral medication was nog longer sufficient and the real heavy stuff was administered through IV drip. Two weeks passed until there was no other option than to abort the pregnancy.

Although usually inducing labor is not successful at this early terms my wife managed to pull it off and finally our son was born. Although weighing only 1417g it was a strong guy that could already breath on his own. He spent only one night at the intensive care for observation before we could move him to the high-care section.

The good news only lasted half a day. After a routine ultrasound of the brains the doctors discovered a massive hemorrhage. His right ventricle was half filled with blood and the left completely filled. At the left side there was already sign of damage to brain tissue. The damage concentrated to the connections from the motor cortex to the central nerve system. The neonatologist explained to us that bleedings at premature born babies are not that uncommon, the strange thing about our case was that the bleeding already occurred before birth. Luckily the human brain, and especially the undeveloped brain of babies, is capable of finding new connections and avoid damaged regions.

There is a chance that we won’t be able to notice anything abnormal in the way our baby moves but it was clear that our days of worrying and hospital visits were long from over. But first things first, being only 1417g our boy needed to gain strength in an incubator.

The incubator is, again, a collection of medical electronics where the engineer in me would love to make some improvements. Take for example the electrodes used for monitoring the heartbeat and the sensor for measuring blood oxygen saturation. I’m not sure if it was the way of handling our baby but somehow the leads always seemed to be tangled. Small wireless sensors would be very helpful in this situation. Perhaps this is a good use for low power ultra-wide-band technology. On the other hand, it is nice to see the designers already took some effort making the electrodes fit in to the cuddly baby environment by printing cute teddy bear pictures on them.

Another one and a half month passed before out baby boy was strong enough to leave the hospital. As a final check an MRI was made. It clearly showed the damaged regions but also that the brains developed normal and that the remaining blood was gradually cleared away. At this point he is just like any other baby. There is nothing wrong with his ability to cry us awake during the night or to kick off his socks. Nevertheless, his development will be closely monitored with perhaps even more electronics.

I guess my messages to other biomedical engineers is first of all, keep up the good work. Until you need the electronics we design you don’t really realize how valuable our work is. Secondly, I think it would be helpful to try to evaluate the design from the viewpoint of the patients and medical personnel that are using your products.

Rico van Dongen, Febr. 6, 2016

Baby Wouter van Dongen

Baby Wouter van Dongen

New book: Design of Efficient and Safe Neural Stimulators – A Multidisciplinary Approach

About this book:

This book discusses the design of neural stimulator systems which are used for the treatment of a wide variety of brain disorders such as Parkinson’s, depression and tinnitus. Whereas many existing books treating neural stimulation focus on one particular design aspect, such as the electrical design of the stimulator, this book uses a multidisciplinary approach: by combining the fields of neuroscience, electrophysiology and electrical engineering a thorough understanding of the complete neural stimulation chain is created (from the stimulation IC down to the neural cell). This multidisciplinary approach enables readers to gain new insights into stimulator design, while context is provided by presenting innovative design examples.

About the authors:

Marijn N. van Dongen was born in Pijnacker, The Netherlands, in 1984. He received the M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands, in 2010 and 2015, respectively. His research interests include the design of neural stimulator output circuits as well as the modeling of the electrophysiological and electrochemical processes during electrical stimulation. Currently he is working for NXP Semiconductors, Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Dr. van Dongen served as the Financial Chair of the IEEE BioCAS2013 Conference.

Wouter A. Serdijn (M’98, SM’08, F’11) was born in Zoetermeer (‘Sweet Lake City’), the Netherlands, in 1966. He received the M.Sc. (cum laude) and Ph.D. degrees from Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands, in 1989 and 1994, respectively. Currently, he is full professor of bioelectronics at Delft University of Technology, where he heads the Section Bioelectronics. His research interests include low-voltage, ultra-low-power and ultra wideband integrated circuits and systems for biosignal conditioning and detection, neuroprosthetics, transcutaneous wireless communication, power management and energy harvesting as applied in, e.g., hearing instruments, cardiac pacemakers, cochlear implants, neurostimulators, portable, wearable, implantable and injectable medical devices and electroceuticals.
He is co-editor and co-author of 9 books, 8 book chapters and more than 300 scientific publications and presentations. He teaches Circuit Theory, Analog Signal Processing, Micropower Analog IC Design and Bioelectronics. He received the Electrical Engineering Best Teacher Award in 2001, 2004 and 2015. Wouter A. Serdijn is an IEEE Fellow, an IEEE Distuingished Lecturer and a Mentor of the IEEE.

Intuitive CMOS transistor modeling

On Oct. 6, 2015, I gave a guest lecture in the lecture series “Structured Electronic Design” (EE4C09) on Intuitive CMOS Transistor Modeling. In there I explain the 5 regions of operation of an MOS transistor (both in weak inversion and in strong inversion, both in triode and saturation, and off), based on the EKV model. For those of you that might still be struggling with understanding how the CMOS transistor works and how it can be employed in first time right, first time best analog and mixed signal circuit design, this lecture is for you.
See the complete lecture, which also treats double loop negative feedback amplifiers, here

Do you really listen or hear?

Learning in the true sense of the word is possible only in that state of attention, in which there is no outer or inner compulsion. Right thinking can come about only when the mind is not enslaved by tradition and memory.”

–  Jiddu Krishnamurti

Considering all the senses we possess, the post could have been named “Do we see or look?” or perhaps  “Do we speak or talk?”. But among the three, I would like to focus more on the capability to hear and listen, which also holds relevance to the research conducted at the bioelectronics group. To provide a sense of appreciation, simply look at how elegantly the brain processes the sounds we hear, with clear distinctions in frequency and amplitude making innumerable nervous connections, to generate a unique experience. For instance, when you hear the far away church bell ringing in a crowded marketplace, it fills you with joy and hope. If you care about the quality of the sound and prefer using high end headphones, you would know the joy of heavy bass sound and clear vocals that you savor while listening to music!

With tremendous advancements in microelectronics, thousands of individuals with varying degrees of disabilities are now able to hear better with the support of hearing aids, where the size of the aid is diminishing rapidly, while maximizing comfort. As an example, the cochlear implants (CI) are being used for the restoration of the hearing ability and is on the road to absolute bliss in audition. As exciting and extreme the research continues to be, I would like to draw your attention to the significance of listening, going beyond hearing, and the differences lying therein.

Although we have managed to bring about considerable improvement in the hearing abilities of the people through scientific progress, have the fully abled beings actually made complete use of the capabilities in a way that would enhance their personalities and their understanding? Do we truly listen?

Difference between hearing and listening

When we hear someone speak, we produce our own formulations and thoughts, we are either accepting or rejecting his/her idea, as the speaker speaks. We stand to compare his words with what we think based on the background, knowledge base and the experience we possess. This very fact is the denial of listening. While hearing is the ability to perceive sound by detection of the changes in pressure in the surrounding medium, which is involuntary, listening is an act you choose to do voluntarily, a decision you take consciously.

In Jiddu Krishnamurti’s words, in listening there is no comparison, neither is there acceptance nor rejection. The quality of listening is your attention. When you listen, every part of your body is in rapt attention to what is being spoken, intensely, where there is no judgement. There is no confusion but absolute clarity. You are neither influenced by the person’s appearance, nor intimidated by his presence. When you do that, you listen to the subject of discussion wholly. You are then in a position to discriminate right from wrong. There is a strong inner urge to understand the speech fundamentally, and not superficially be steered by the speaker and/or being ignorant. You are then very observant of the changes that are taking place within you, subtle nevertheless. A detailed discussion is available here for the interested reader.

Krishnamurti speaks in depth about the state of the mind while listening. A calm mind can perceive and listen with great clarity. Also, such a mind can have positive influence on the environment, the essence of which is well captured in one of Krishnamurti’s commentaries about “The noisy child and the silent mind” and is available here. As another example, in the movie Karate Kid (2010), Kung Fu master Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) takes Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) to the Dragon well on top of the mountain. Mr.Han explains the state of mind of the lady (who controlled the snake) which was calm and still just like the water in the well where Dre looks at his own reflection. The scene is available here (Watch from 1:13:00 to 1:17:10).

To give an analogy in the circuits and signal processing domain, when we need to acquire a signal, while ensuring quality and reproducibility in the digital domain for a given application, both internal and external noise have to either be minimized or rejected. In the same way, only a quiet mind can perceive and experience what is beyond hearing and also understanding. And often, the quality of listening goes with the choice of words one uses in his/her speech. As you begin to listen better, your thoughts become refined and so do your words. You then begin to filter all that is noise and only recover your signal of interest.

On another note, it is important to use one’s own discretion in placing the attention. Considering the information society we live in, there is a vast wealth of information on every subject. What we choose to learn is an individual choice. A wealth of information creates a dearth of attention, derived from the concept of attention economy, first studied extensively by Herbert Simon.

While we aim to bring about improvement in the the lives of people with hearing disabilities, we also need to give a thought towards how effectively we use our perfectly functioning abilities. How we take things for granted! If we didn’t, the experience would be more enriching, so much more happier and so much more wholesome!

As Helen Keller said,
So much has been given to me I have not time to ponder over that which has been denied.
This should not only motivate oneself to look within, reflecting on the challenges and converting every disadvantage to an advantage, but also placing a check on whether we use our inherent faculties to the total extent. It is just like owning a Lamborghini Aventador but being limited to use it as a Dacia Sandero on legal roads or employing an ARM micro-controller to make an LED blink!

About Jiddu Krishnamurti

jk  Born (11 May 1895 ) in Mandanpalle, Andhra Pradesh, India, Jiddu Krishnamurti, an Indian philosopher, is globally regarded as one of the greatest educators and thinkers. He had a deep sense of appreciation and respect for nature, as it appears in his notes. When he spoke, he did so with his own insight and vision, which had a certain directness and freshness.

About Hellen Keller

hk Born (27th June 1880) in Tuscumbia, Alabama, U.S., Hellen overcame the adversity of being deaf and blind to become one of the 20th century’s leading humanitarians as quoted here.

Suggested reading and references

  • Commentaries on Living, Jiddu Krishnamurti
  • Education and the significance of life, Jiddu Krishnamurti
  • Story of my life, Hellen Keller





Een betere toekomst begint vandaag

maslov_eeVoor verwelkoming van de aankomende 1e-jaars van de opleiding Electrical Engineering aan de TU Delft maakte ik tijdens het “Electro Ontvangst Weekend” (EOW) een presentatie. Deze presentatie vind je hier:

Neural stimulation: design of efficient and safe neural stimulators

Article by Marijn van Dongen on efficient and safe neurostimulation

Article by Marijn van Dongen, honorary aluminus of the Bioelectronics Group, in Maxwell 18.3, the quarterly magazine of the Electrotechnische Vereeniging, on the work he did for his PhD studies on power efficient and safe neurostimulation.

Read the entire article here:

Lecture on Electroceuticals: getting better with electricity

Lecture on Electroceuticals: getting better with electricity

Lecture on Electroceuticals: getting better with electricity

On May 6, 2015, Collegerama of TU Delft made video recordings of the lecture I gave on Electroceuticals.

Electroceuticals are the electronic counterparts of pharmaceuticals and are miniature electronic devices that interact with the body in an electrical fashion.

In this talk I discuss: neurostimulation and the need to make neurostimulators smaller, more power efficient and more intelligent; optogenetic neuromodulation and the need to make this new neuromodulation modality operate in a closed-loop fashion; neurosensing devices to make neurostimulators intelligent and thereby adjust themselves to the therapeutical needs of the patient; autonomous wireless sensor nodes that can measure temperature or the electrocardiogram without the need for a battery; an outlook into the future of electroceuticals with the promise to treat a larger variety of neurological and brain disorders better.

Click here to start watching the video and slides:

REMINDER: ISCAS 2015 Advance Registration Deadline (April 30th) Approaching Quickly

REMINDER: ISCAS 2015 Advance Registration Deadline Notice & Call for Participation

2015 IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS) Lisbon, Portugal
24-27 May 2015

– Keynote by Behzad Razavi: “The Future of Radios”
– Keynote by Ronald Dekker: “From Chips for the Living to Living Chips”
– Keynote by Luís Gomes: “Changing the Economics of Space: Small Spacecraft and COTS Electronics”
– John Choma Commemorative Session on Reconfigurable and Adaptive Analog, Mixed-Signal, and Radio-Frequency Integrated Circuits, with contributions from Yannis Tsividis, Franco Maloberti, Edgar Sanchez-Sinencio, Hossein Hashemi and Randy Geiger.
– John Choma Commemorative Session on Ultra-Low-Power Integrated Circuits and Systems for Biomedical Implants, with contribution from Mohamad Sawan, Ralph Etienne-Cummings, Wouter Serdijn, Herming Chiueh and Roman Genov.
– Conference Leadership Workshop

Rooms at different hotels in Lisbon have been booked for the convenience of the participants and are to be assigned on a first-come first-served basis. Please visit the conference web site for additional information.

Advance Registration Deadline: April 30th


Queridos amigos,

On behalf of the Organizing Committee, we are pleased and honored to invite and welcome you to Lisbon and to the 2015 IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS 2015). The conference theme, “Enabling Technologies for Societal Challenges”, in line with the 2020 European Research and Innovation Roadmap and the Grand Engineering Challenges, suits extremely well our community’s inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary research activities.

ISCAS is the main event of the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society and the world’s premier networking forum for leading researchers in the highly active fields of theory, design and implementation of circuits and systems. The Technical Program Co-Chairs for this year edition, João Goes and Philipp Häfliger, have assembled an outstanding program with three full days of lectures and poster sessions covering 16 tracks. The most outstanding contributions to these tracks will be considered for the Best Student Paper Award contest and the Best Live Demo Award contest. The winners of both awards will be selected and announced during the conference.

ISCAS 2015 also offers high-quality and leading–edge tutorials and special sessions from worldwide experts, either in specific and in multidisciplinary areas, suited for those looking for a birds-eye view on a new research area or to improve their areas of expertise.

A set of world-class keynote speeches will be presented.

Apart from the scientific contributions, ISCAS 2015 will offer a forum that promotes the interaction between industry, start-ups, PhD students, academia and research funding agencies. This interaction will have place through industry presence, debates and talks.

ISCAS 2015 maintains the Women in CAS (WiCAS) activity as well as the Young Professionals Program (YPP) activity and will also host a “Conference Leadership Workshop”, a Special “John Choma Commemorative” Session with 10 distinguished invited speakers and other events, further enriching the technical program.

As for the social program we will try to match the quality of the technical program and of the tutorial offerings. On Tuesday, the Award Ceremony will be held in an opera house auditorium followed by the Gala Dinner in the Convento do Beato, a magnificent former monastery that dates back to the 15th century.

ISCAS 2015 will assist in sharing and disseminating your specific and inter- and cross-disciplinary technical achievements and will bring together diverse participants, histories and cultures. We look forward to your active participation in this magnificent event!

Um abraço,
Jorge Fernandes and Wouter Serdijn

Future hardware improvements in implantable hearing devices

Damaged situation of the middle and inner ear; hair cells are damaged or non-existent, nerve cells are not fully developed or do not reach the cochlea [3].

Damaged situation of the middle and inner ear; hair cells are damaged or non-existent, nerve cells are not fully developed or do not reach the cochlea [3].

In this essay, by Ide Swager, MSc student in bioelectronics, an overview of current and future developments in implantable hearing devices is presented. It has been written as part of the course Introduction to Microelectronics for the M.Sc. track Microelectronics of the faculty Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science of Delft University of Technology. A brief version of the auditory anatomy is included to clarify the causes of deafness. After elaborating on the current devices available and the basic working principle, future trends are explored. These include Neural Response Telemetry (NRT), combined Acoustic and Electric Stimulation (EAS) and binaural devices.

Read the full essay here:

IEEE CASS Summer School on Wearable and Implantable Medical Devices; intro of my talk on low-power low-voltage circuit design on YouTube

YouTube Preview Image

Published on Jul 10, 2013

Una pequeña descripción de su investigación, en circuitos de bajo consumo y miniaturización de los mismos. Su descripción aqui