Wireless microsensors have a wide range of uses. The devices eliminate the impediment and cost associated with wiring, and because of their small size and simplicity, they are finding a range of uses in industries as varied as helicopter development, tire manufacturing, motor vehicle engine design and medicine.
Medical researchers at the University of Arizona and the Scripps Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles are using a MicroStrain sensor called a StrainLink to develop better, more durable artificial joints. Embedded within an orthopedic device, the sensor monitors how much stress the joint experiences and relays the information to doctors.
The strain data can help physicians monitor stresses within a patient’s body over long periods and through a variety of activities. In addition to helping improve the construction of artificial joints, the findings can help tailor effective treatments. Similar to the National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards that helped MicroStrain develop wireless sensors, this study was supported by the National Institutes of Health SBIR program.
Because of their durability and heat-resistance, microsensors are also finding use in testing equipment under extreme pressures. MicroStrain developed a sensor called the EmbedSense, which is now helping researchers study helicopter rotors under the stress of 50,000 times the force of gravity and to monitor the hot interiors of truck engines. With microsensor data, test engines are running with reduced emissions and 10-18 percent improved fuel economy.
New improvements, such as inductive loops that turn magnetic energy into electric energy and devices that can convert the bending of bridge parts into useable electric current, are providing engineers with creative options for the next generation of wireless sensor applications.
** Photo Credits: MicroStrain, Inc.