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BRIDGE Proof of concept grant for Dr. Tino Töpper

Dr. Tino Töpper of the Biomaterials Science Center has been awarded a BRIDGE Proof of concept grant of 120,000 CHF for the project “Enhancing the capabilities of artificial muscle implants using low-voltage dielectric elastomer sensors”.

Dielectric elastomer transducers (DET) exhibit a strain-stress behavior comparable to human tissues. Their efficiency to convert electrical energy into mechanical one is outstanding, e.g. as artificial muscles they are established in soft robotics. The use for medical implants, however, requires a reduction of the operation voltage by at least two orders of magnitude. Dielectric elastomer actuators based on elastomer layers several hundred nanometers thin have generated 6% strain applying voltages as low as 12 V and thus, have gained international interest within the community of electro-active elastomers. However, thousands of nanostructures would have to be stacked realizing the force comparable to natural muscles. Therefore, a Bridge-Proof of Concept project, led by Dr. Tino Töpper at the Biomaterials Science Center, will start the 1st of September 2017 to focus on the sensing capability of the DETs, fabricated by organic molecular beam deposition. Finally, these highly flexible DETs will serve as force-feedback sensor directly integrated on medical implants. These high-performance multi-layer sensors will remain operational even if one or the other layer fails due to breakdowns. With millisecond time response the functionality of artificial sphincters implants (MARS, Dr. N. Dhar, Wayne State University) for incontinence treatments will be significantly enhanced. Colleagues within the Department of Biomedical Engineering, under the supervision of Prof. G. Rauter, seek to implement the DET into sophisticated devices. Within the MIRACLE project the sensor arrays could become part of the endoscope that enables laser-based tissue cutting.