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Polymer Composite Research

Smart materials and Nanomaterials

What’s Involved in this Research?

This research focuses in developing a portable and affordable device to automate breast tissue examination and enable qualitative breast image analysis.

In most developing countries, breast cancer examination is normally performed manually with the help of medical professionals. While examining the breast, the medical professional applies adequate pressure on the breast using finger pads and palpates it in a certain pattern. The accuracy of the examiner in identifying malign (unhealthy) tissues from benign (healthy) tissues depends on the skills that must be acquired through adequate experience.

A palpable device for detecting breast tissue abnormalities

Due to the disparities in the skills among medical professionals, there have been inconsistencies in the performance and reporting approaches of clinical breast examination.

Automating the palpation process is believed to optimize the process of clinical breast examination as the effectiveness of identifying the malign tissue will entirely depend on the sensitivity of the device, and not on the skills of the person who palpate the breast. Automating the process could also allow visualizing abnormal tissues and simplify the process of determining the sizes and mechanical properties of the tissues.  As shown in the figure, the system will be composed of a protective layer, electronic sensor, padding layer, probe head, and microprocessor. The electronic sensor is made of a piezoresistive material that changes its electrical resistance when deformed. The padding allows the sensor to deform when it is subjected to a pressure or touch. The deformation induced electrical signals will be collected using the electrodes attached to the sensor, and the data will be used to construct an image that help in determining breast tissues abnormalities.

How Students Benefit

This research provided an opportunity for students to develop skills in problem solving and critical thinking. The research also trained the students how to integrate knowledge across different disciplines to develop a product. It has also provided an opportunity to the students on developing research methods, performing experiments, analyzing data, and communicating the research findings.

The research involved one mechanical, one electrical, and two computer engineering undergraduate students.

The mechanical engineering student involved in designing and fabricating all except the electrical components. The electrical student was responsible for selecting all the electronic hardware, designing the circuit, and fabricating the microprocessor. The two computer engineering students had been developing a software that plots an array of the sensor’s signal. For the electrical and computer engineering students, the project was a Capstone project. The mechanical student has already presented the preliminary findings of the research during LU’s 2020 Research Week. The student also submitted a paper to present the findings in the ASME 2020 Conference on Smart Materials, Adaptive Structures and Intelligent Systems. The paper has already been accepted and will be published in the ASME digital collection. All students involved in the project graduated in spring 2020. Beginning fall 2020, other students will carry out the research.

Research Professor

Dr. Ephraim Zegeye
B.S., M.S., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Google Scholar Profile

Impact on Society

The goal of this research is to provide women living in the developing world an opportunity to self-screen their breasts via the proposed system. Since the palpable system will not involve radiation, it may also be used by women in developed nations as undergoing screening using mammograms may led to a radiation-induced breast cancer.

In the News


Paper to be published in the ASME Digital Collection: Smart Materials, Adaptive Structures and Intelligent Systems


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