Smart knee implant uses sensors to protect joint from damage

Researchers have developed an artificial knee that features sensors capable of monitoring for potentially damaging activities that could wear the joint out prematurely. The technology addresses an important issue that younger artificial knee recipients face, helping them prolong the lifespan of the device for an overall better experience. The sensors are powered using an energy-harvesting system.

Artificial knees are an incredible technology that substantially improve recipients' quality of life. As with many good things, though, there's a downside: the fake knee only lasts for so long before it wears out, at which point it will need replaced. A young patient who isn't careful may face the grueling reality of knee replacements every five to 10 years.

Fake knee recipients must avoid certain excessively strenuous activities that put too much pressure on the artificial knee, which shortens its lifespan by increasing damage. It can be hard to determine whether the patient is engaging in a particularly damaging activity, however, an issue the newly developed "smart knee" solves.

The smart knee implant was developed by researchers from Binghamton University and State University of New York. The device's sensors monitor how much pressure the patient's activities are putting on the joint, enabling doctors to determine whether there's risk of damage and mitigate it before a problem arises.

The smart device is meant to reduce the number of knee replacements the patient much undergo, but that means a typical battery wouldn't work to power the knee — the battery would need replaced eventually, defeating the entire purpose behind the technology. To get around that, the implant uses triboelectric energy, which is harvested from friction. Simply put, the knee is powered by the act of walking.