Self-powered sensors

A researcher at SouthamptonUniversityhas developed a self-powered sensor to monitor progress during knee operations.

Fauzan Baharudin who was studying at the university’s School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) for a master’s degree, has explored the potential for the use of thick film technology in the development of medical sensors, which could be embedded in the knee during surgery.

This new sensor, called Serial In-vivo Transducer (SIT) could measure tendon force during anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. The ACL is the most commonly injured ligament and is frequently damaged by athletes.

ECS’s Professor Neil White, who supervised the project, had developed thick film piezoelectric materials in 1991 and this made it possible to produce the sensor, which powers itself as if it were installed in a vibrating device and is ideal for appliances where physical connections to the outside world are difficult.

In Baharudin’s project, Assessing the use of thick-film technology in knee surgery: along with energy harvesting in-vivo, energy harvesting capability has been incorporated.

Baharudin said: ‘I chose knee surgery because there has been very little research carried out in this field and I felt a self-powered device could work well in the knee.’

Baharudin added: ‘It remains a mystery to me, given how common knee injuries are among athletes, that devices like ours have not been developed before now. A sensible assumption for this is that thick film technology does not reach medical researchers as quickly as it does within the microelectronics community, hence the delay in realising the huge potential in developing in vivo transducers.’