Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) sadly doesn't do anyone any good - it's the biggest cause of pain and physical disability in the United Kingdom, where there are approximately 10 million sufferers with 15,000 of those being children. And this number is only increasing.
It is a condition that increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, with sufferers twice as likely to suffer from depression as 41 out of 100,000 people are diagnosed per year. But it's not all bad, and one way to ease the pressure of pain is with a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation machine (TENS) - which can also help with general back and joint pain too.
A TENS machine is a small electronic device, typically powered by batteries, that emits electrical impulses to reduce the pain signals to the brain and spinal cord via pads placed on the skin. Whilst the machine impulses these signals, helping to relieve pain and relax muscles in the body, endorphins are stimulated as a result - which are the body’s natural painkillers.
Andrew Bargh has redesigned the typical TENS machine - with an aim to merge medical and environmental industries together.
Arthur is a wearable TENS machine device that can be charged through the movements of a users wrist and activated to fight pain. As the device charges from human movements, there is no need for batteries or alternative power sources to power up the device. Instead, just keeping active will charge the device - which also dramatically helps reduce the pain inflicted by arthritis. Win-win, right?
Arthur is fitted around the users wrist by the use of a magnetic strap, which can be disengaged to stretch the device around the body part that is suffering from pain. The user can then select the appropriate operation settings; including duration and intensity of the session. Three duration settings can be selected including 10, 20 and 30 minute long sessions, and also three intensity settings can be selected including a low, medium or high shock rates.
Once the user has covered the pain area with Arthur, holding down the power button for 3 seconds can then activate the device. This feature acts as a child lock so that children cannot use the device and therefore cause harm to themselves or others.
How does 'he' work?
‘Free’ energy can be harvested from common human activities such as walking and running. Energy harvesting is expected to play a very important role in the future of wearable computing as direct sources of power, such as batteries or solar power, are cumbersome, expensive and unreliable.
Arthur is charged by the use of electromagnetic techniques - so as a spring moves within the device, the mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy; usually by means of piezoelectric (a smart material that produces a current when deformed and vice versa) or electromechanical systems. If the spring moves with more force, or it bounces back and forth rapidly, more energy will be produced. A voltage is produced when a magnet is moved into a coil of a wire and it can also be reversed if the other pole of the magnet is moved into the coil.
Human movements, such as periodic motions, produce more harvesting energy than others - as walking typically produces in the region of 100-200 microwatts, more then enough energy to power a small electronic device like our friend, Arthur.
Andrew designed this device during his final year of Product Design Engineering at Loughborough University, and with a great interest in medical and sustainable technology - this project gave him a great opportunity to merge the two. He is currently seeking funding to develop Arthur even further.
You can check out his other designs through his web-portfolio.