E-Skin Resistive Strain Sensor: Optimum Sensor Placement; Assessing and Communicating the Barriers Against Access to and Successful Implementation of Prosthetic Devices

Johnson, Nicholas, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Xu, Baoxing, EN-Mech & Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, Science, Technology, and Society, University of Virginia

Wearable technology is a rapidly expanding and evolving field of technology with ramifications across commercial, industrial, and medical settings. For the technical portion of this portfolio, my team and I endeavored to design, fabricate, and analyze a biocompatible, elastic, flexible strain sensor created from polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and carbon nanotubes for monitoring joint health. The goal was to create a sensor that showcases improvement on standard, rigid sensors currently used in the medical field. The STS research paper portion of this portfolio focuses on understanding and communicating the current state of limb prosthetics along with the existing barriers to access and successful implementation of prosthetic devices. It is a synthesis of available information on the topic of limb prosthetic technology and examination of the barriers against the technology, in the hope that solutions can be found to better the lives of prosthetic users. Originally, the STS research paper was set on risk perception and communication concerning emerging materials in wearable technology. However, much of this information can be considered proprietary by companies. Therefore, I shifted my focus to another field of wearable technology, prosthetic devices. While my team’s particular sensor would not be of much use in a prosthetic device, advancements in wearable sensors are crucial in advancement of prosthetic devices.

Current medical sensors that are commonly used are rigid, often metal, sensors that are unable to conform to a patient’s skin. This lack of conformation can result in faulty readings, especially in a long term setting where perspiration and motion are present. These sensors also require patients to be in a clinical setting for monitoring, while our sensor could potentially be worn outside of a clinical setting while collecting real time data while the patient performs their typical motions.

The STS research paper focused on understanding the current state of limb prosthetics and the barriers that exist against access and successful implementation for users. This was done through studying a myriad of research papers based around the topic and creating a synthesis of the different aspects present. The STS approach used in understanding the topic was Pacey’s Triangle of Technology Practice in an effort to recognize technical issues, organizational issues, and cultural issues present.

After understanding the state of modern prosthetics and the available technology surrounding it, I moved into investigating the barriers that prevent users from fully benefiting. I found that the largest barrier for most users is the high cost of the process with very limited resources for overcoming that barrier. There were organizational issues such as difficulty acquiring training and rehabilitation service, leading to high rejection rates. Cultural barriers also existed in the form of stigmatization and cultural mindsets around health care. While the technology is there for highly functional prosthetics, most users cannot fully access the options they need.

Ultimately, both the technical and STS portion of this portfolio emphasized the need for engineers to be acutely aware of the reaches of technology in an effort to create the most benefit for humans possible. The technical portion emphasized the potential for advancing technology to improve the quality of life of patients. On the other hand, the STS portion demonstrates that there are several barriers that can obfuscate a patient’s access to this advanced technology

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Pacey's Triangle of Technology, Prosthesis, Medical Technology, Strain Sensor, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Technical Advisor: Baoxing Xu, STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud, Technical Team Members: Dennis Chavarria, Sohail Ghatnekar, Zachary Holden, Nicholas Johnson
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: