A trio of doctoral students from Warsaw University of Technology have been named grand prize winners of this year’s James Dyson Awards for their SmartHEAL sensor, which is built into dressing to detect how well a wound is healing.
The smart sensor, designed by Tomasz Raczyński, Dominik Baraniecki and Piotr Walter, measures the pH balance of a wound to detect possible infection without having to change the dressing, as this can damage tissue and actually cause an infection.
This is especially important for older people who are at a higher risk of developing chronic wounds, which can lead to complications and death in a quarter of outpatients over 70.
“We offer immediate results, a non-invasive product that leads to faster and more comfortable healing processes and can reduce wound healing time and prevent amputations and death for thousands of patients,” explained the inventors.
“Our manufacturing technology allows for very high volumes and scalable production, making our product affordable for everyone.”
SmartHEAL works using an electronic pH sensor printed on a fabric backing and does not require batteries or power to operate.
Instead, the sensor communicates information about the status of the wound using radio frequency identification (RFID). This wireless communication system uses radio waves to transfer wound pH value data, which users can read by simply hovering a mobile device over the sensor.
“The key to our solution is our new dressing manufacturing technology with an integrated sensor, featuring easy-to-implement, scalable screen printing technology combined with thermal transfer,” explained the designers.
“It can be washed, it can be stretched, and it won’t break.”
As grand prize winners of the James Dyson Awards, the trio will receive £30,000 in prize money. This will serve to complete the testing phase of SmartHEAL and start clinical trials, with the aim of bringing the product to market by 2025.
“I hope the award gives the team the impetus to move forward on the difficult path to commercialisation,” said British inventor James Dyson, who founded the award and selects the grand prize winners each year.
A further £30,000 has been awarded to Polyformer, an open source recycling machine that turns plastic bottles into filament for 3D printing, which has been named this year’s global sustainability winner.
The machine was designed by Swaleh Owais and Reiten Cheng to help manufacturers in the Global South transform plastic waste into a locally sourced, affordable and abundant material.
“We are using the prize money to roll out several Polyformers and Polyformer-Lites at our partner manufacturing spaces in Rwanda,” the duo explained.
“With these machines, local students, designers and manufacturers in Rwanda will have access to low-cost 3D printer filament.”
The second international prize for this year’s awards went to Charlotte Blancke’s Ivvy, a wearable alternative to IV poles.
Each year, the James Dyson Award honors the best design and engineering students from around the world, with the grand prize and sustainability winner selected from a list of 29 national winners.
Previous winners have included a breast cancer home test kit and a solar panel made from food waste that can harvest energy from not only visible sunlight but also invisible UV rays.