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The National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers have developed a new aero-elastic pressure sensor, eAir, which can be applied to minimally invasive surgeries and implantable sensors.

This technology draws inspiration from nature’s lotus leaf effect and is designed to address the limitations of existing pressure sensors. It is expected to offer increased precision and reliability for medical applications.

The eAir sensor claims to transform minimally invasive surgeries by providing tactile feedback to surgeons for precise tissue manipulation and ensuring improved patient experiences by offering less-invasive monitoring of intracranial pressure.

NUS Department of Materials Science and Engineering associate professor Benjamin Tee said: “Conducting surgeries with graspers presents its unique challenges. Precise control and accurate perception of the forces applied are critical, but traditional tools can sometimes fall short, making surgeons rely heavily on experience and even intuition.

“The introduction of soft and readily integrable eAir sensors, however, could be a game-changer.”

The sensor leverages an air spring design that mimics the lotus leaf’s water-repelling properties.

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National University Hospital general surgery consultant Dr Kaan Hung Leng said: “When surgeons perform minimally invasive surgery such as laparoscopic or robotic surgery, we can control the jaws of the graspers, but we are unable to feel what the end-effectors are grasping.

“Hence, surgeons have to rely on our sense of sight and years of experience to make a judgement call about critical information that our sense of touch could otherwise provide.”

The NUS team has filed a patent for the eAir sensor in Singapore.