Sensors use technology suited for aircraft, prosthetics

Dr. Quyen Do of the University of New South Wales
Dr. Quyen Do of the University of New South Wales developed microscopic sensors for knee replacements. (University of New South Wales)

Sensors that have the potential to make aircraft safer could also be used to improve the lives of diabetics and those who rely on prosthetics.

According to an article on, students and researchers at the University of New South Wales, working in fields such as aeronautics, biomedicine and physics, are collaborating with researchers at Canberra Hospital, to create sensors that could be used in knee replacements, therapeutic insoles, airplanes and vehicles.

On the prosthetics end, Dr. Quyen Do has just completed her Ph.D. studies at UNSW Canberra, where she began developing microscopic sensors that can be used to detect wear and tear in knee replacements.

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"The sensor can be incorporated into the knee bearing," Dr. Do said.

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"When the load is applied, we can see the measurement from the sensor. If the patient experiences any extreme loading, the doctor can give feedback to the patient to correct things like that."

The technology is also being utilized for diabetic shoes. First year University of New South Wales Ph.D. student Ruth Poblete is applying the sensors to the insoles of shoes for diabetic patients. She is part of a cross-institutional team lead by Associate Professors Sean O'Byrne and Heiko Timmers that includes also biomechanics and sports medicine researchers at the University of Canberra and UAS Muenster in Germany.

"There are therapeutic shoes that are available in the market to distribute pressure across the feet, but just like any others, they wear out and eventually lose their functionality," Ms. Poblete said.

UNSW Canberra Aeronautical Engineering Associate Professor Sean O'Byrne has researched how this technology could be used to detect faults in aircraft.

The collaboration between aeronautics and medicine was sparked when an orthopedic surgeon asked Professor O'Byrne whether emerging aerospace technologies could be applied to prosthetics.

"It was that discussion that led to the idea of making these plastics that sense themselves—a type of smart material," Professor O'Byrne said.

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