PhD Proposal – Development of a polymer nanocomposite sensing platform to prevent the development of bedsores

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2. Object of thesisDisabled patients at the KERPAPE Functional Rehabilitation Centre often have limited mobility and sensitivity, and are therefore very susceptible to the development of bedsores due to soft tissue compression between hard surfaces and bone lesions. Seventeen to 50 % of patients entering for long periods of care will have compression ulcers. It is therefore crucial to prevent their occurrence through effective monitoring in order to improve patients’ quality of life.This innovative project aims to create a sensing platform combining different types of nanocomposites sensors : piezo-resistive sensors to map the distribution of pressure on the skin and chemo-resistive sensors to measure the emission of volatile biomarkers from wounds. Our goal is to increase the technological readiness level (TRL) from 2 to 5 in three years in order to achieve proof of concept in a representative environment.3. Expected profile of the candidateWe are seeking a highly motivated student interested in the development of a diagnostic platform combining high-tech polymer nanocomposite sensors fabricated by additive manufacturing and flexible electronics made by printing to target medical applications that improve the quality of life of patients.

Engineers or M.Sc. candidates with a strong background in polymer science, physical chemistry, polymers for electronics are encouraged to apply. A will to develop solutions that will help patient is also looked for.

Experience in the use of polymer characterization and processing techniques, as well as a motivation for health applications in the field of disability are highly desirable.

Applicants will be enrolled in the HIT (Handicap Innovation Territories) project and must be willing to travel and work in collaborators’ laboratories.

4. Description of the subject

The Handicap Innovation Territories (HIT) project has been granted by the national call “Innovation Territories” (endowed with 450 M € over 10 years), and is the only one in the field of handicap in France. The program is led by Lorient Agglomeration and brings together a total of sixty partners (communities, institutions, academics, companies, start-ups, associations, medico-social, etc.).

Kerpape Rehabilitation Centre is one of the biggest rehabilitation centres in France, relying on more than 50 years of experience in caring for patients with motor disabilities and/or brain-damage. It has 200 beds and more than 400 patients per day, both children and adults, in different units: neurology, traumatology, paediatric care, cardiac re-education, respiratory re-education… The Assistive Technology Lab is composed of three engineers and one 3D designer. They are responsible for the adaptation and the development of assistive technologies for patients (people with motor/cognitive disabilities): adaptation/development for patients in a global/multidisciplinary care framework, but also applied research with academic and industrial partners (part of the Lab-STICC HAAL group, French CNRS). Among others, the lab ensures a technological watch to keep track of upcoming technologies, advises therapists and patients about electronic technical devices, and contributes to research projects in which the centre is engaged.

The Smart Plastics group belongs to the IRDL CNRS 6027 Lab at the University of South Brittany (UBS). Its members are developing quantum resistive sensors (QRS) based conductive polymer nanocomposites (CPC), which can measure deformations as well as detect volatile organic compounds (VOC) [1,2]. Created in 2004, the research group has promoted a culture of innovation that led to the launch of the start-up “SENSE in“ in 2018.

In a preliminary step, it was shown that a set of chemo-resistive sensors assembled in an e-nose could detect pressure ulcers’ artificial and real volatile biomarkers in order to discriminate patients with and without bedsores [3]. In addition, highly sensitive piezo-resistive pressure sensors [4,5] have been developed to produce flexible matrices capable of mapping the pressure distribution of a seated patient.

The second phase will aim to confirm these findings and bring them to a robust demonstrator based on feedback from a representative number of patients.


1. Nag-Chowdhury, S.; Bellégou, H.; Pillin, I.; Castro, M.; Longrais, P.; Feller, J. F. Interfacial nanocomposite sensors (sQRS) for the core monitoring of polymer composites’ fatigue and damage analysis. Nanocomposites 2018, 4, 69–79, doi:10.1080/20550324.2018.1494772.
2. Sachan, A.; Castro, M.; Choudhary, V.; Feller, J. F. Influence of water molecules on the detection of volatile organic compounds (VOC) cancer biomarkers by nanocomposite quantum resistive vapor sensors vQRS. Chemosensors 2018, 6, 64, doi:10.3390/chemosensors6040064.
3. Tran, M. T. Development of nanocomposite Quantum Resistive Sensors for the prevention of bedsores, University of South Brittany (UBS), 2018.
4. Tung, T. T.; Tran, M. T.; Feller, J. F.; Castro, M.; Van Ngo, T.; Hassan, K.; Nine, M. J.; Losic, D. Graphene and metal organic frameworks (MOFs) hybridization for tunable chemoresistive sensors for detection of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) biomarkers. Carbon N. Y. 2020, 159, 333–344, doi:10.1016/j.carbon.2019.12.010.
5. Tran, M. T.; Tung, T. T.; Sachan, A.; Losic, D.; Castro, M.; Feller, J. F. 3D sprayed polyurethane functionalized graphene / carbon nanotubes hybrid architectures to enhance the piezo-resistive response of Quantum Resistive pressure Sensors. Carbon N. Y. 2020.