Engineering Devices for the Future of Health Care

Working across disciplines, Cockrell School of Engineering researchers are designing innovative health-related devices and advancements to improve lives and provide better health care options in the future.

In celebration of the April 21 launch of the Dell Medical School at UT Austin, let’s take a peek into what these engineers are working on.

close up view of hand holding the prototype catheter

Detecting Cardiovascular Conditions More Clearly

DEVICE: A catheter that uses advanced imaging to detect arterial build-up

Researchers in biomedical engineering professor Stanislav Emelianov's Ultrasound Imaging and Therapeutics Research Laboratory are analyzing and testing tools that may better detect plaques in coronary arteries and their vulnerability to induce life-threatening conditions. Combining ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging techniques, their prototype catheter rotates to capture images in multiple directions to provide information about the artery structure and composition, creating a more clear and complete picture of the artery and the plaques that may be in it, and ultimately offer guidance for better treatment outcomes.

electronic tattoo

Treating Patients Through Wearable Electronics

DEVICE: An electronic “tattoo” to measure information and deliver medicine

For her most recent development, Nanshu Lu, NSF CAREER Award winner and assistant professor in aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, has created a first-of-its kind device that can measure and store data about a person's movements, receive diagnostic information and deliver medicine, all through the skin. Lu invented the geometrical configuration of the circuit to allow the wearable electronics to expand and compress. Made up of stretchable nanomaterials, the electronic “tattoos” and other bio-integrated electronics are revolutionizing health care.

robotic rehabilitation hand

Bringing Robotics Into Rehabilitation

DEVICE: A robotic hand exoskeleton to assist in rehabilitation

Influenced by his own hand injury, mechanical engineering assistant professor Ashish Deshpande set out to explore how robotic devices could safely assist patients in their physical therapy. In his ReNeu Robotics Lab, he and a team of students are designing a robotic hand-wrist exoskeleton that delivers repetitive and intensive rehabilitative movements that can restore functional capabilities of the wrist, hand and fingers. This and other devices may eventually help physical therapists monitor patients' progress more precisely and keep patients more engaged.

body core cooling device

Cooling the Body Faster and More Effectively

DEVICE: A noninvasive, portable mechanism to cool the body's core

Using a cooling pad and a battery-powered thermoelectric system — essentially, a small refrigerator — biomedical engineering professor Ken Diller has created a compact portable body-core-cooling device that artificially simulates blood flow through our most effective heat transfer portals — the palms of our hands and the soles of our feet. Most significantly, Diller’s mechanism provides a noninvasive solution to cooling the body’s core quickly during medical events such as strokes, brain injuries and heart attacks. Eventually, the device could be housed on airplanes and used by EMS professionals in the field.

sls prosthetic foot

Filling a Void in Commercial Prosthetic Device Options

DEVICE: A customized, selective-laser-sintered prosthetic foot to improve the lives of amputees

Mechanical engineering professor Rick Neptune is utilizing a cutting-edge technology developed at UT Austin — selective laser sintering (SLS) — to help improve the quality of life for lower-limb amputees. Beginning with a 3-D computer model, the SLS process uses a high-powered laser to build the design out of layers of powder. In Neptune’s case, the end product is a sturdy yet flexible prosthetic device that is tailored to the amputee. He and his students are currently creating customized prosthetic and orthotic devices for injured soldiers.