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Scientist Mart Min enjoys seeing Results working in Real Life

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Mart Min, professor at the Tallinn University of Technology, said that the creation process has always fascinated him but he is not a classical scientist who makes long-term passive observations, collects facts and filters the required information to systematise the information into new knowledge.

“I came to science from engineering. I make minimally intrusive but still active experiments and I have always tried to use the acquired knowledge for aiding medical diagnosing and creating new machines, treating methods or a new production processes. Seeing scientific results working fascinates me,” explained Min.

Knowledge for Different Areas

Seemingly, Mart Min has been engaged in very different areas—space projects, medical technology, coin identification machine—but actually their common denominator is measurement. “Already from the beginning of my career in engineering and science my research topics were connected with obtaining information from the environment, both natural and engineered,” Min said.

While he was studying, Estonia had a strong electronics industry, there were several large enterprises in Tallinn, some in Tartu and other cities. Students received in-service training in these factories, which had their own design offices and several also had research departments. Min practiced in the RET (Radio-Electronic Technology) Corporation in Tallinn. The main development line in RET was creating new principles for electronic measurements.

His diploma thesis in electronic engineering at the Tallinn Polytechnic Institute and later his PhD thesis defended in 1984 at Kiev Polytechnic, Ukraine, were devoted to information acquisition and measurement technology.

The acquired knowledge has been implemented in various ways: in measurement devices for the electronics industry, spectrometric devices for space labs and later mostly in the research and development of medical electronics.

Great Innovation for Pacemakers

In 2011, Min’s research group was nominated for the European Inventor Award mostly because of new details made for pacemakers.

His first research in the field of pacemakers was published in the late 1990s in the framework of the EU Copernicus project “Hardware based Fuzzy Logic control of the pacing rate in rate-adaptive cardiac pacemakers”. In this project, electrical bioimpedance based sensing of lungs’ breathing character as an indicator of the physical workload of the patient was introduced.

Artificial hand helps to investigate blood circulation. Photo: Research in Estonia
Artificial hand helps to investigate blood circulation. Photo: Research in Estonia

“In 1999, I was asked to give some lectures in Stockholm University about the usage of electrical bioimpedance information in medical monitoring and diagnosing. The next day, I was suddenly asked to give a similar lecture in St Jude Medical Company (USA/Sweden) and I received an invitation to collaborate with the company in the field of bioimpedance based sensing and pacing rate control,” Min said.

The collaboration lasted four years and concluded with new solutions for the estimation of the patients’ physical workload and controlling the pacing rate, as well as limiting the highest pacing rate to avoid overpacing and, therefore, the possible destroying of the heart muscle. All these solutions were patented by St Jude Medical worldwide and have been used in the products of the company (implantable rate adaptive cardiac pacemakers).

Collaboration with Foreigners

Mart Min works with his research group. In addition to Estonian students and scientists there are also people from abroad, for example, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Germany, Greece and Afghanistan. “In our master’s programme of Communicative Electronics there are about twenty foreigners, as well as ten doctoral students who have a great role in our research,” Min said.

Georgios Giannoukos from Greece got his doctor’s degree from Tallinn in July. He participated in the project called “Impedance spectroscopy based identification and control”. Giannoukos got the idea to come to the Tallinn University of Technology (TUT) from a fellow scientist in Greece and he really enjoyed studying there.

Tauseef Ahmed from Pakistan is a PhD student in TUT. “I am working with the subject of wireless sensors’ network for my PhD. My current research is in alliance with the projects in the department,” Ahmed said. He added that he is currently working on e-Health modelling, which is a project of his supervisor, senior researcher Yannick Le Moullec, who is one of the busiest supervisors in the department. Moullec will become professor in January.

German Robin Ehrminger enjoyed his master’s studies in mechatronics and continues on the PhD level. “So far it has been a great experience with a lot freedom for creativity. At the moment I am investigating different approaches in the field of bacteria concentration detection,” he said.

All three men work with Mart Min and they appreciate this opportunity a lot. “I can describe Mart Min as an outstanding and very active scientist with great experience and a great load of humour,” Ehrminger said.

Giannoukos described Min as a brilliant scientist with an excellent personality. Ahmed added that when he has attended conferences and introduced himself as a student from Estonia, people have asked if he knows Mart Min. “I think he is a very high-profile researcher in Estonia,” Ahmed said.

Multifunctional Technology

One of Min’s and his research group’s latest works is the euro coin identification machine. The enlargement of the European Union and opening of borders brought along an explosion of fake coins and that is why a new type of validation machines was needed.

Min said that it took a bit more than five years of study and development to get from the idea to a working machine. “The main principle for identifying euro coins is measuring the electrical impedance of their different layers in a broad frequency band (impedance spectroscopy). We used the non-contact induction current (Eddy current) spectroscopy method,” he explained.

The idea and proof-of-concept demo device were developed as a response to the procurement of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). The prototype was developed in the framework of the EU-FP7-SME project “SafeMetal—Increasing EU citizen security by utilizing innovative intelligent signal processing systems for euro-coin validation and metal quality testing”.

By the way, the technology of electrical impedance was patented in 2010. The same technology can be also used for diagnosing health issues and electrical failures in satellites, as reported by the daily Eesti Päevaleht[1].

Helping People

Min says that research in the field of medical technology is the closest to his heart. “When one works together with medical doctors, one sees how many troubles mankind can have,” he said. “One also sees that clever technological solutions are already helping people today but one understands how many problems technology can solve in the nearest future with the aid of science. I myself have been a demanding patient recently and experienced these problems first-hand.”

At the moment Min is working on cognitive electronics and especially on a new method for determining changes in central blood pressure. It is part of his project “Impedance spectroscopy based identification and control of objects: signals, algorithms, energy efficient solutions” that focuses on blood pressure[2].

Scientists use animal heart in the artificial blood circulation to see how the system works. Photo: Research in Estonia
Scientists use animal heart in the artificial blood circulation to see how the system works. Photo: Research in Estonia

Min mentioned that science goes forth independently thanks to curious people, as it has happened already for many centuries. He also stated that science should be strongly supported by the society and government to gain economic and social benefits and security for citizens and the state as a whole. “Science needs financing and scientists must voice their responsibility. A lot of problems in today’s science could be surpassed if fundamental science, i.e., applied science and innovation, would be considered as a single development process,” suggested Mart Min.

[1]Aug, T. (2010) Tehnikaülikool sai patendi euromüntide ehtsust tuvastavale tehnoloogiale. URL: http://epl.delfi.ee/news/eesti/tehnikaulikool-sai-patendi-euromuntide-ehtsust-tuvastavale-tehnoloogiale?id=51277769

[2]Maidla, M. (2016) Südame südames. URL: http://www.sirp.ee/s1-artiklid/c21-teadus/sudame-sudames/

Maidla, M. (2016) Kognitiivelektroonika on elektroonika tulevik. URL: http://www.sirp.ee/s1-artiklid/c21-teadus/kognitiivelektroonika-on-elektroonika-tulevik/

This article was funded by the European Regional Development Fund through Estonian Research Council.

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