Compression Aid using Heat-Sensitive Polymorphic Smart Materials

Creator: Ashley Chang     
Supervisor: Peter Yeadon

This materials-driven study explores the potential of polymorphic smart materials in compression stockings for medical and remedial use. A variety of health issues affect leg health and physical condition, including varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, and arthritis. Many of these health issues are linked to factors like old age, family history, and obesity, in addition to lifestyle factors like sitting or standing for long periods of time.

Compression therapy is one form of treatment currently available in a variety of products, including stockings, socks, and braces. Other treatment methods include heat therapy and acupressure therapy, which are also available in a variety of products.

This project uses shape memory polymers (SMP) integrated into graduated compression stockings for improving the quality of treatment for symptoms of these issues. The redesigned compression stockings aim to synthesize existing methods like graduated compression, heat therapy, and acupressure by introducing polymorphic smart material.
The stockings are composed of an outer elastane polyester-blend layer, a lithium ion battery-powered heating layer, a SMP/elastane polyester-blend layer, and an inner elastane polyester-blend layer with ABS acupressure dots attached to the material.

As the heating layer applies heat to the user's leg, the SMP layer contracts and applies pressure to the user, with a higher level of pressure at the ABS acupressure points. The user is able to control the level of compression by adjusting the temperature of the heating layer via a control button on the outside of the material.

The current design utilizes a flexible lithium ion battery designed by Jenax as a direct replacement for rigid lithium ion batteries used by existing wireless heating material. However, further research on integrated textile batteries developed using carbon nanotube "electro-yarns" could benefit the wearability of the product.

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