While wireless networks have become an everyday necessity in work and social interactions, their capacities are now expanding their use into crucial medical settings.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, have recently created and developed small devices that can help doctors track and monitor a patient’s recovery after surgery.
While it may employ many of the same wireless technologies as other personal electronic devices currently on the market, this device, which is called a triboelectric–electromagnetic sensor, will look much different in real life.
The device is designed to be small, tubelike and flexible, easily fitting into a patient’s brace after surgery. It will track information on the patient’s condition, which can then be sent to laptops, computers, smartphones and other devices.
“That data would be continuously collected, so it would be as though the physician or physiotherapist was always there, always observing the patient,” said Hassan Askari, a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo, according to ScienceDaily.
The first prototype of this device employed a technology that combines electromagnetism and triboelectricity.
Electromagnetism is essentially the interaction between electric and magnetic fields, and triboelectricity is a specific type of electricity created by friction.
In the triboelectric-electromagnetic censor, the friction caused by the rubbing of two materials together creates an electric current. When the device is bent with a patient’s movement, the current develops enough electricity in order to send wireless signals to other personal devices; these signals help track and evaluate a patient’s movement and progress.
This way, the device does not need a battery or any outside power source. This is ideal since it would most likely be difficult and expensive to change batteries in a flexible device like this one.
This device is practical not only for its power source, but also because it would be relatively cheap to manufacture and sell in large scales.
According to Askari, the sensors contained in this device, which will be about six centimeters long, can most likely be manufactured for just under 10 dollars.
While this technology might promise good use in medical fields, scientists are also looking further into using it in transportational settings.
The same sensor could also be used on the tires of autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles. The car could potentially detect changes in road conditions and consequently make adjustments to driving settings.
“Based on the forces, the interaction between the road and the tires, we could actually detect ice or rain,” Askari said. “That is extremely important information for autonomous driving.”
Even so, researchers still search for ways to make the device more powerful.
In fact, in the near future the research team is looking for ways to eventually make the monitor device smaller and solely dependent on triboelectricity.