A textile sensor can detect pressure points on the socket of a prosthetic limb. (Credit: Ashish Kapoor)

A soft, flexible sensor system created with electrically conductive yarns could help map problematic pressure points in the socket of an amputee’s prosthetic limb. The device incorporates a lattice of conductive yarns and is connected to a tiny computer. Researchers tested the system on a prosthetic limb and in walking experiments with two human volunteers, finding the system could reliably track pressure changes in real time.

In one experiment, the researchers tested whether the patch could detect changes in pressure when they placed it on an artificial limb, turned at different angles. Then they used it to test pressure changes when an able-bodied person wore the sensor patch while walking with a bent-knee adaptor and while shifting their weight between legs.

They created the sensor patch by sewing the yarns together in such a way that they created an electromagnetic field. When they sewed the yarns into a lattice and applied a small amount of electrical power using a small battery, they found they could measure the amount of electrical charge drawing the yarns together at each lattice point. The charges changed depending on how close the yarns were together, which related to how much pressure was applied by the wearer.

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