Piezoelectric Fiber Prosthetics?
Posted by tim in I hate technology. on March 26, 2008

I may be throwing away my million dollar idea here, but I need to share it and get some feedback.

Having arthritis and limited motion in my hands, I've wondered if there would be any sort of external prosthetic assist that may help out. Then one day, I saw an article somewhere about a revolutionary helicopter design that used piezoelectric fibers to twist and bend the rotor blades. After pondering it for a little bit, I wondered if it would be able to make some sort of thin and lightweight gloves, using some sort of sensors and microcontrollers to determine what movements were attempted, then make use of specially placed highly flexible piezoelectric fibers to provide assist on the the appendage needing the assist.

Now, what if such a thing could be expanded to something less complicated? What about people who have trouble moving their leg, due to muscle and nerve damage? Could a non-surgical product be developed in the form of say, tight pants, to apply this concept to help that person walk again?


I think it's a brilliant idea, especially for muscle damage, but when it comes over to neuro&nerve related damage I think it might be somewhat a different story.

I can't forsee a time in the near future when an item of clothing would be able to house such technical equipment?

Please correct me if I'm wrong! Just a thought...

  • Posted by Sam (Guest) on March 27, 2008 at 07:24:32AM

Well, if you think about it, it would be something like a standard clothing fiber, like a thread. That portion wouldn't be too bulky.

In terms of the sensors, I'm wondering if there isn't some sort of other fiber that would change resistance value when bent and stretched. From there, we would just need to route the fibers to a computer of some sort (I have seen some small enough to fit on a credit card), which would take care of all the logic and control. In terms of power, I'm sure some sort of light-weight battery pack could be added.

  • Posted by tim (Guest) on March 27, 2008 at 07:18:41PM

I suppose then it is technically possible? But like all great inventions it's putting it into practice that is difficult?

Have you contacted any of the large clothing companies, perhaps sport companies? Like Nike etc.

Perhaps they have some idea on items of that sort?

  • Posted by Sam (Guest) on March 28, 2008 at 02:42:36AM

There's already the robotic suit that the US military is experimenting with, which acts like a servo for the body and enables its user to carry heavy things and run fast. I don't have a link at hand now though. That things is heavy and based on hydraulics, not the kind of heavyweight stuff you were looking for... But I think cybernetic technology has a bright future. Most likely the kind of micro-cybernetics we're talking about here (Fine tuned movement) will read nerve impulses directly rather than acting as a servo.

  • Posted by nitro2k01 (Guest) on March 28, 2008 at 09:33:25AM

Yeah, that suit is a very mechanized version of this thought. I've not raised the idea to anyone yet except here, but I may soon-ish.

  • Posted by tim (Guest) on March 29, 2008 at 01:11:17AM
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