Saudi university team wins international award for pioneering marine technology

Bluefin fish tagging technology was developed at KAUST’s MMH Labs


JEDDAH: A pioneering marine data-gathering device developed at a Saudi university has scooped a prestigious international technology award.

Bluefin, produced at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), won the Tech for a Better World category at the 2020 CES Innovation Awards staged in Las Vegas.

KAUST professor of electrical engineering, Muhammad Mustafa Hussain, helped his university MMH Labs team to develop the fish tagging technology that can measure water temperature, pressure, depth, and pH levels in parts of the ocean where humans cannot reach.

Weighing just 2.4 grams, the standalone electronic sensory system can be attached to the shells or skin of a marine creatures to continuously transmit ecological data from depths of up to 2 km for a whole year.

“The sensors monitor the environment, save the data in an integrated memory, and when the tag is brought to the surface it can wirelessly transmit the data to nearby smartphones, tablets, or computers,” Hussain told Arab News. “I realized we could help marine species by developing comfortable and convenient wearables for them.”

Compared to similar gadgets used for monitoring ocean environments, Bluefin is completely noninvasive and biocompatible.

Hussain said: “This is the first-ever technology which is fully flexible and uses silicon. We have developed technologies that can transform physically nonflexible electronics into fully flexible electronics. This makes it unique.”

Bluefin will be available this year for scuba divers, naval forces, and fisheries interested in marine life tagging for ecological data.

The CES Innovation Awards program is an annual competition honoring outstanding design and engineering in consumer technology products. Winning entries are selected on the basis of their engineering, aesthetics and design, uniqueness, and the innovation they bring to the consumer market.

The awards are open to any individual, organization, or authorized agent manufacturing, designing, engineering, or promoting consumer technology.

“CES Innovation Award is equivalent to the Nobel Prize in consumer electronics technology and it was a pleasant surprise for us to be honored as the only academic research lab, and along with major industries.

“A heavily resourced university like KAUST needs to be globally competitive and to be recognized in serious top competitions involving science and engineering,” added Hussain.

Based at KAUST in Thuwal, MMH Labs is the only academic research group in the world that has paved the way for manufacturable hydrogenous integration strategy for high-performance flexible and stretchable electronics.

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