Purdue’s new medical sensor is powered by rap music

January 29, 2012

Purdue's new medical sensor is powered by rap musicHow many times have pulled up to a light and felt your car vibrate because of the heavy bass beat coming from the car next to you?  Probably quite a lot.  Now that low barely audible but definitely felt beat can power a medical sensor created by scientists at Perdue.

According to Purdue University, Babak Ziaie, a Purdue University professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering, doctoral student Albert Kim and  research scientist Teimour Maleki, will present a paper on their new sensor to the IEEE MEMS conference that starts today.  MEMS stands for microelectromechanical system.

The device which is intended to be implanted in the body, is powered by the low barely audible bass beat found in most rap music.  The sensor measures pressure and possible uses for the device would be in the treatment of people with aneurisms or incontinence due to paralysis.  Other uses will probably be found over time.

Essentially the sensor contains a two centimeter long “cantilever” beam that vibrates when frequencies reach between 200-500 hertz. The cantilever is made out of “a ceramic material called lead zirconate titanate, or PZT.” Being a piezoelectric material, “it generates electricity when pressed.”  The device also stores a charge in an onboard capacitor.  Once the frequency quits playing, the cantilever stops “automatically sending the electrical charge to the sensor, which takes a pressure reading and transmits data as radio signals.”

"You would only need to do this for a couple of minutes every hour or so to monitor either blood pressure or pressure of urine in the bladder," Ziaie said. "It doesn’t take long to do the measurement."

Pressure sensor illustration

The signal for the receiver could be set several inches from the patient, but since we are talking inches, it would probably work the best if carried in a pocket.  Before settling on rap as the music of choice to be used to run the device, the researchers tried blues, rock, jazz and rap.  Rap worked the best.  That’s great news for people who really like rap but there are a lot of people who really hate it.  In that case a tone can be played or possibly only certain songs from one of the other genres of music.

Development of the device was conducted at the Birck Nanotechnology Center located in Purdue University’s Discovery Park.  As with all new potential medical devices, it won’t hit the market after many more years of testing and human research studies. 

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