Fluidic Flexible Matrix Composite Wafers for Volume Management in Prosthetic Sockets
Persons with transfemoral (above knee) and transtibial (below knee) prostheses experience changes in the volume of their residual limb during the course of the day. These changes in volume unavoidably lead to changes in quality of fit of the prosthesis, skin irritations, and soft tissue injuries. The associated pain and discomfort can become debilitating by reducing one's ability to perform daily activities. While significant advancements have been made in prostheses, the undesirable pain and discomfort that occurs due to the volume change is still a major challenge that needs to be solved. The overall goal of this research is to develop smart prosthetic sockets that can accommodate for volume fluctuations in the residual limb. In this research, fluidic flexible matrix composite wafers (f2mc) are integrated into the prosthetic socket for volume regulation. The f2mc's are flexible tubular elements embedded in a flexible matrix. These tubular elements are connected to a reservoir, and contain an internal fluid such as air or water. Fluid flow between the tubes and reservoir is controlled by valves. A linear finite element model has been created to better understand output response and stiffness of the f2mc wafers for different design variables. Results demonstrate that wind angle, latex thickness, and material selection can be used to tailor the wafers for different applications. Through experiments, f2mc's have been shown to achieve nearly 100% strain through the thickness when pressurized to about 482.6 kPa (70 psi). The displacement results shown through these tests show great promise in applications of socket integration to compensate for volume change.