Vacuum gripper

PhD student Durandus Vonck developed a vacuum tool that allows surgeons in keyhole surgery to get a grip on tissue without damaging it.
It all began with the idea of using vacuum for getting a grip on tissue during an operation.

Tools that have been in use for that are basically modified pincers, which are prone to damage the tissue if not handled correctly. Amongst other studies, Dr. Eveline Heijnsdijk showed this in a PhD research project (2004) at the faculty of 3mE. The project fell within the research contract with the German laparoscopic instrument builder Karl Storz GmbH. No less than five IDE master students worked on the design of the vacuum pump handle. “The first design looked like a hair blower”, Goossens remembers. “After that, it gradually became more elegant until Storz took over to optimise the design for manufacturing.” Another clever adaptation they introduced was to place the vacuum piston in the tight shaft instead of in the wider handle.

Polymer CO sensor

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in greenhouses may be monitored by a cheap and small solid-state nano device. A special polymer coating makes an electronic chip sensitive to the greenhouse gas. During his PhD research, Dr. Xiangping Chen set out to develop a new type of solid-state CO2-sensor that would be fast, sensitive and affordable. Polymers are more often used to add chemical functionality to electronic devices, potentially turning them into electronic noses, taste buds or indeed gas detectors. Chen explains the function of the polymer is twofold: it increases the sensitivity and makes the sensor more specific for CO2 detection. Prof. Paddy French, who was in Chen’s doctoral committee, says the polymer technology is promising, but that more work is needed to proof that the proposed gas sensor is specifically sensitive to CO2 and not to whichever other gases may pass.

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