Researchers at IIT-Delhi have introduced an innovative wearable pressure sensor, crafted from a nanocomposite material, that could serve as a cost-effective solution for addressing gait and postural deformities without the need for expensive footwear adjustments, surgeries, or posture correction accessories.
In contemporary society, gait and postural deformities are prevalent and debilitating. These deformities encompass issues such as splay foot, flat foot, unstable hind foot with protruding heels, high arches, and irregular gait. They are closely associated with problems like poor balance, abnormal posture, swollen knees, and weakened joints, all of which hinder one’s ability to walk with ease.
To counter these challenges, monitoring gait and postural deformities is of utmost importance. It can offer valuable insights into the recovery process and the identification of various medical conditions, thus expediting a patient’s healing journey while averting long-term harm.
Researchers have devoted extensive efforts to the detection and correction of postural deformities. The flexible wearable sensors developed can effectively identify the aforementioned irregularities through specific pressure patterns that correspond directly to the type of abnormality.
These sensors rely on a unique nanocomposite material, combining a light-sensitive polymer and piezoelectric nanoparticles. This design provides the advantage of simple array configuration for sensing over a large area, an uncomplicated production process, and cost-effective implementation for monitoring human movement and injury rehabilitation.
The sensor’s flexibility is a key feature, enabling it to serve as a sensor array that comfortably fits within insoles of varying sizes. It can also be easily attached to the palm or other body parts where localized pressure sensing is needed. This sensor employs dual transduction nanocomposite material, allowing it to concurrently sense mechanical strain and contact force/pressure. This capability enhances integration with machine learning algorithms, offering higher-level feature elements.
Dhiman Mallick, the lead researcher and Assistant Professor at the Electrical Engineering Department of IIT Delhi, explains that the integration of sensors and Machine Learning has paved the way for intelligent sensors with applications in healthcare, sports science, defense, and more. In laboratory tests, the proposed sensor demonstrated its potential to detect foot problems in both adults and children by analyzing pressure variations on the back of the foot and converting them into electrical output. As abnormal hind foot pressure distribution can lead to issues in knee joints, hips, and even spine-related injuries, addressing and correcting these problems is crucial.
The output generated by the sensor is analyzed by conventional machine learning models and compared to predefined patterns of a normal individual. This allows clinical specialists to identify the type of deformity present.
The pressure patterns obtained can assist doctors and specialists in designing custom insoles that mitigate foot deformities by providing support to areas with abnormal pressure distribution. In essence, this sensor offers a cost-effective alternative to expensive footwear modifications, surgeries, and posture correction accessories.
Moreover, this sensor has broader applications. It can discern various human activities, such as walking, running, or other movements, by detecting pressure changes in the hind foot. This versatility is invaluable in smart healthcare systems, where understanding activity patterns, exercise intensity, and the number of steps are vital for analyzing the health of individuals, particularly those with conditions like diabetes and obesity. Additionally, it can aid in fall detection among the elderly, especially for patients with Parkinson’s disorder or mobility impairments.
Furthermore, this adaptable sensor system can be used in injury rehabilitation, such as assessing hand grip strength, which is essential for gauging recovery in limb injuries.
The developed sensor opens up new possibilities for smart devices, with applications spanning agriculture, healthcare, energy, industries, sports, and more. Its potential market reach is substantial, and it promises to leave a lasting imprint on various technological fields.
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