The world population recently reached 7.8 billion, of which nearly 15% suffer from disabilities mainly due to aging and chronic diseases.
The lack of infrastructure and trained rehabilitation professionals is a global problem that has been intensified by the ongoing pandemic and, as a result, access to healthcare has been drastically reduced.
Upcoming technologies such as telemedicine and telerehabilitation attempt to address these issues by providing remote and affordable access to healthcare using telecommunications devices, such as smartphones and tablets.
This change requires new methods that can collect inexpensive and accurate data on physiological parameters – such as heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and hormone levels – and body movements under real conditions.
Existing motion detection techniques have many drawbacks including limited range, restricted mobility (due to bulky and rigid components), high cost, and the need to replace / recharge batteries.
Dr Ishara Dharmasena, of the School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering (MEME) at Loughborough University, has been appointed a researcher by the Royal Academy of Engineering and has received funding of £ 500,000 to develop new technology that overcomes these challenges.
Over the next five years, he will focus on creating super smart textiles containing sensors that can be used for remote health monitoring.
Dr Dharmasena will seek to make electronically active clothing from textile yarns that capture energy from body movements and generate electricity using very small power generators known as “triboelectric nanogenerators”. (TENG).
Absorbing body movement, these super smart textiles will not only power electronic components, but also act as self-powered functional sensors capable of accurately detecting movements of targeted body parts.
This futuristic textile system will then wirelessly communicate the data to a mobile device – resulting in a highly efficient, durable, lightweight, portable and low cost rehabilitation monitoring product.
Dr Dharmasena hopes to have two fully functional smart textile demonstrators by the end of the project: the first being a fitted t-shirt / base layer, and the second being a bandage that can be worn as a normal support bandage.
His research will benefit from the contribution and support of a variety of industrial partners as well as academics from across the MEME School.
Commenting on the importance of the project, Dr Dharmasena said: “It is an honor to have received the prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship, which has been one of my aspirations since I started my studies. of doctorate.
“With this scholarship, I will be able to address some of the key issues related to wearable health monitoring by creating innovative solutions through nanogenerator technology.
“These ‘super smart textiles’ developed here will be able to monitor body movements and transmit sensor signals remotely, while powering their own operations by absorbing energy from the wearer’s natural movement.
“At a time when access to healthcare has become extremely scarce, the results of the scholarship will benefit many people around the world. In doing so, this work will support efforts to address global challenges and sustainable development goals in the areas of health and wellness, and clean energy.