Researchers at Binghamton University are working on developing smart knee implants that could significantly reduce the number of knee replacement surgeries. Knee replacement surgery is one of the most common joint replacement surgeries and is being performed on younger and more active patients. These patients, if not careful, may end up going through knee replacement surgery every five to ten years, as their implant wears down. The proposed smart knee would change this by monitoring a patient's activity and alerting doctors if the patient is overexerting themselves, potentially causing damage to their current implant. The knee implant is self-powered, using triboelectric energy, a type of energy collected from friction as a person walks.
“We are working on a knee implant that has built-in sensors that can monitor how much pressure is being put on the implant so doctors can have a clearer understanding of how much activity is negatively affecting the implant,” says Sherry Towfighian, Assistant Professor at Binghamton University and principal investigator on the study.
From the Binghamton University article: "The sensors allow doctors to tell patients when a certain movement has become too much for the implant so patients can quickly adjust and avoid further damage to the implant. It helps them find the sweet spot of activity for each particular patient.
While the sensors solved one problem, they brought in another. The researchers did not want to power the sensors with a battery that might need to be replaced periodically and therefore, defeat the purpose of a smart implant. Instead, they worked on an energy harvesting mechanism that can power the knee implant from motion. Wathiq Ibrahim, a postdoc in Towfighian’s group, developed a prototype of the energy harvester and tested that under a mechanical testing machine to examine its output under equivalent body loads."
Read more about the self-powered smart knee implant at Binghamton University.