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Proceedings Paper

Monitoring diver kinematics with dielectric elastomer sensors
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Paper Abstract

Diving, initially motivated for food purposes, is crucial to the oil and gas industry, search and rescue, and is even done recreationally by millions of people. There is a growing need however, to monitor the health and activity of divers. The Divers Alert Network has reported on average 90 fatalities per year since 1980. Furthermore an estimated 1000 divers require recompression treatment for dive-related injuries every year. One means of monitoring diver activity is to integrate strain sensors into a wetsuit. This would provide kinematic information on the diver potentially improving buoyancy control assessment, providing a platform for gesture communication, detecting panic attacks and monitoring diver fatigue. To explore diver kinematic monitoring we have coupled dielectric elastomer sensors to a wetsuit worn by the pilot of a human-powered wet submarine. This provided a unique platform to test the performance and accuracy of dielectric elastomer strain sensors in an underwater application. The aim of this study was to assess the ability of strain sensors to monitor the kinematics of a diver.

This study was in collaboration with the University of Auckland's human-powered submarine team, Team Taniwha. The pilot, completely encapsulated in a hull, pedals to propel the submarine forward. Therefore this study focused on leg motion as that is the primary motion of the submarine pilot. Four carbon-filled silicone dielectric elastomer sensors were fabricated and coupled to the pilot's wetsuit. The first two sensors were attached over the knee joints, with the remaining two attached between the pelvis and thigh. The goal was to accurately measure leg joint angles thereby determining the position of each leg relative to the hip. A floating data acquisition unit monitored the sensors and transmitted data packets to a nearby computer for real-time processing. A GoPro Hero 4 silver edition was used to capture the experiments and provide a means of post-validation. The ability of the sensors to measure joint angles was assessed by examining GoPro footage in the image processing software, ImageJ.

This paper applies dielectric elastomer sensor technology to monitoring the leg motion of a diver. The experimental set-up and results are presented and discussed.

Paper Details

Date Published: 17 April 2017
PDF: 11 pages
Proc. SPIE 10163, Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2017, 1016307 (17 April 2017); doi: 10.1117/12.2260394
Show Author Affiliations
Christopher R. Walker, The Univ. of Auckland (New Zealand)
Iain A. Anderson, The Univ. of Auckland (New Zealand)
StretchSense Ltd. (New Zealand)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10163:
Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2017
Yoseph Bar-Cohen, Editor(s)

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