Pneumatic and Hydraulic Actuators
We have developed soft actuators that can also sense. Our actuators are made from nitrile rubber wrapped in Kevlar fibres. They can extend in the axial direction without bulging out in the radial direction. When coupled together they can move in interesting and useful ways:
This new actuator and sensor technology is currently being developed for use in two medical device applications.
Pelvic floor elastometer
The pelvic floor can easily be damaged during childbirth. We have developed a device for measuring pelvic floor stiffness, and are exploring whether it can help us pre-identify women who are likely to suffer pelvic floor injury during childbirth. Our device gently extends the pelvic floor, while measuring the response of the pelvic floor muscles. Our previous devices were powered by electric motors (left), but we are now developing a new device based on our soft actuators (right).
Imagine a bed with a controllable surface that can reposition a patient to avoid bed sores, and help transport patients on and off the bed. In this project we are creating a moving pneumatically powered bed surface from soft actuators. The bed surface is moved by an array of actuators, that move in synchrony, a bit like the legs on a caterpillar:
In this way, we can translate and rotate the bed surface, while measuring the pressure across the patient’s body, and relieve areas of high or prolonged pressure.