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Biomimetic Tactile Sensor for Prosthetics

Award Information

Department of Health and Human Services
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2009 / SBIR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
2222 S FIGUEROA ST PH 2 LOS ANGELES, CA 90007-6601
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Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No
Phase 1
Fiscal Year: 2009
Title: Biomimetic Tactile Sensor for Prosthetics
Agency: HHS
Contract: 1R43HD061165-01
Award Amount: $117,932.00


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Tactile feedback is essential for dexterous use of the hand. Physical therapists working to rehabilitate hands with neurological damage understand that tactile sensation is a key indicator of ultimate hand function. Ne urophysiologists have identified that rapid reflexive adjustment of grip is essential for handling objects and depends on tactile feedback via the spinal cord. Autonomous robots can deal only with rigid objects in known orientations specifically because th ey lack tactile feedback. Engineers developing telerobotic manipulators have demonstrated improved performance when vibrotactile feedback is provided via haptic displays to the operator's hand. The limiting factor in all of these applications has been th e absence of sensitive yet robust sensors that can be incorporated into anthropomorphic mechatronic fingers and used in the diverse and often hostile environments in which hands need to function. We have developed and demonstrated the basic feasibility of novel biomimetic tactile sensors that provide wide dynamic range sensing of normal and shear forces and microvibrations associated with slip and texture. All of their sensing elements and connections are located in and protected by the rigid core of a fing er that is covered with skin, pulp and nail elements that are mechanically and cosmetically similar to biological fingers. In this project, we will complete the refinement of the material and transduction properties and integrate them with the signal proce ssing electronics into self- contained modules. These modules can be incorporated mechanically and electronically into a variety of prosthetic and robotic hands intended to provide function for patients with loss of normal hand function as a result of trau ma and disease. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: Approximately 100,000 Americans are missing one or both arms or hands as a result of trauma or surgical amputation. The development of electromechanical replacement limbs has been hampered by the lack of robust sen sors for touch and grip adjustment. We are developing prosthetic fingers that imitate the appearance, mechanical properties and sensory capabilities of human fingers.

Principal Investigator:

Nicholas Wettels

Business Contact:

Matthew Borxage
Small Business Information at Submission:


EIN/Tax ID: 262961880
Number of Employees: N/A
Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No