Impact sensor provides athletic support

May 14, 2010

As athletes strive for perfection, sports scientists need to exploit every technological advance to help them achieve that goal. Researchers in New Zealand have now developed a new type of wearable impact sensor based that can provide much needed information about the stresses and strains on limbs for rugby players, high jumpers, and runners.

Writing in the International Journal of Biomechatronics and Biomedical Robotics, Kean Aw and colleagues in the department of Mechanical Engineering, at The University of Auckland, explain how known as ionic polymer metallic composites (IPMCs), produce an electrical current when compressed. These materials are flexible, lightweight and durable and so can be fashioned into wearable sensor devices to allow sports scientists to monitor directly impact forces without interfering with an athlete's performance.

IPMCs are usually made from an ionic polymer, such as Nafion or Flemion, which is coated with a conducting metal, platinum or gold. Previously, researchers have experimented with IPMC materials as because applying a voltage causes them to flex as ions migrate causing electrostatic repulsion within the . The opposite effect, in which ion movement generated a voltage when the material is flexed, is exploited in the .

Impact sensors made from IPMC could be inserted into footwear to measure the impact energy of a foot striking a hard surface or they might be placed in a rugby player's shoulder pads to measure collision impacts or forces exerted during a rugby scrum. The data obtained from these sensors allows the athlete's performance to be quantified and analyzed in terms of the forces acting on their body with a view to improving their and also reducing the potential for injuries.

The researchers have tested IPMC sensors in the laboratory and compared the readings obtained for different applied forces with those from more conventional measurement techniques. Their analysis of the tests reveals that the IPMC sensors would have to be calibrated with a high and a low impact force prior to testing with a performing athlete. However, the voltage spike and the slope of the voltage measurement obtained with an IPMC can be readily converted into an impact force measurement to within 10% accuracy.

Explore further: Researchers propose network-based evaluation tool to assess relief operations feasibility

More information: "Ionic polymer metallic composite as wearable impact sensor for sport science" International Journal of Biomechatronics and Biomedical Robotics 2010, 1, 88-92. dx.doi.org/10.1504/IJBBR.2010.033025

Related Stories

Jellyfish Robot Swims Like its Biological Counterpart

Jun 26, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- "Jellyfish are one of the most awesome marine animals, doing a spectacular and psychedelic dance in water," explain engineers Sung-Weon Yeom and Il-Kwon Oh from Chonnam National University ...

Novel Zigzag Shape Gives Sensors Magnetic Appeal

Jan 05, 2005

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have designed tiny magnetic sensors in a "zigzag" shape that are simpler in design and likely will be cheaper to make than conventional ...

Soft Materials Buckle Up for Measurement

Jun 22, 2006

Buckling under pressure can be a good thing, say materials scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Writing in the June 13 issue of Macromolecules, they report a new method to evalua ...

Recommended for you

Large streams of data warn cars, banks and oil drillers

18 hours ago

Better warning systems that alert motorists to a collision, make banks aware of the risk of losses on bad customers, and tell oil companies about potential problems with new drilling. This is the aim of AMIDST, the EU project ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

A way of making hundreds—or even thousands—of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks without using any memory or processing power has been developed by engineers at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Microsoft CEO is driving data-culture mindset

(Phys.org) —Microsoft's future strategy: is all about leveraging data, from different sources, coming together using one cohesive Microsoft architecture. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Tuesday, both in ...

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, ...

New clinical trial launched for advance lung cancer

Cancer Research UK is partnering with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer to create a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer – marking a new era of research into personalised medicines ...

More vets turn to prosthetics to help legless pets

A 9-month-old boxer pup named Duncan barreled down a beach in Oregon, running full tilt on soft sand into YouTube history and showing more than 4 million viewers that he can revel in a good romp despite lacking ...