CLEVELAND, Ohio — Case Western Reserve University researchers have developed a basic prototype gadget that allows users to manage “smart home” devices by adjusting their breathing patterns.
The self-powered gadget is designed to fit into the nostrils and has the potential to improve the quality of life for those who have restricted movement or are unable to communicate coherently. It can also be designed to send automated alarms to medical personnel if a person has difficulty breathing.
“We believe that having both of these capabilities–smart technology control and medical alert–in a small device makes this special,” said Changyong “Chase” Cao, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering who is leading the research and development of the device.
Cao and his collaborators recently published their research in the journal Advanced Materials Interfaces. The team included recent Postdoc Yaokun Pang (now a professor at Qingdao University, China) and PhD student Shoue Chen. Cao said he has also applied for a patent on their prototype device, Cao said.
The ‘smart technology’ revolution
Together, smart-appliance and smart-home technology make up a rapidly growing industry as hundreds of consumer-ready appliances and devices are Bluetooth-enabled or folded into the “Internet of Things” (IoT).
Lighting and energy control systems, air conditioners, and security systems are examples of smart-home equipment. They can be remotely operated or designed to operate autonomously.
However, the benefits of smart technology are practically hard to access for individuals who cannot talk or use their limbs to operate a gadget.
“Smart technology is fantastic—but only if you can put it to use,” Cao added. “Our new design would enable anyone who is breathing to turn equipment on and off, or adjust thermostat settings, for example.”
How the device works
Cao and his collaborators used a technology known as triboelectric Nanogenerators (TENGs), or triboelectrification, to make the device work.
TENGs can convert mechanical energy harvested from the environment to electricity for powering small devices such as sensors or recharging consumer electronics.
The technology, developed in earnest over the last decade, allows scientists to convert daily mechanical energy into useful electric power. That energy present in the natural environment includes rain, wind or even everyday body motions, such as touching hands together, walking or, in this case, breathing.
Because of its basic form and operation, Cao believes the gadget, called a “breathing-driven Human-Machine Interface (HMI) system,” might be accessible to the public within three to five years. He stated that the team would continue to work on the prototype in the following months and years to get it suitable for practical usage.
Case Western Reserve University is one of the country’s leading private research institutions. Located in Cleveland, we offer a unique combination of forward-thinking educational opportunities in an inspiring cultural setting. Our leading-edge faculty engage in teaching and research in a collaborative, hands-on environment. Our nationally recognized programs include arts and sciences, dental medicine, engineering, law, management, medicine, nursing and social work. About 5,800 undergraduate and 6,300 graduate students comprise our student body. Visit case.edu to see how Case Western Reserve thinks beyond the possible.Home Automation >> News & Updates >> Controlling A ‘smart House’ With Your Breath