Sydney students design smart bandage for burns

12 June 2018
University of Sydney to represent Australia at Biodesign 2018
A team of undergraduate students who envisioned a new way to harness design and biotechnology, has been selected as a finalist to present at the Biodesign Challenge Summit at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.
Smart bandage applicator designed by students from the University of Sydney

Hydroheal smart bandage applicator designed by students from the University of Sydney.

Every year, university teams from across the world working at the intersection of biology and design compete in the Biodesign Challenge. The University of Sydney’s team was chosen as a representative to compete with 26 universities from nine other countries. This team is the first to represent the University of Sydney and is the only team representing Australia.

The undergraduate students herald from a number of courses including Design Computing, Engineering (Biomedical) and Medical Science. For the last three months the team has been led by Dr Erez Nusem and Mr Liam Bray from the School of Architecture, Design and Planning, and Dr Phillip Gough from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences.

“The Biodesign Challenge has provided a platform for a multidisciplinary group of students to work together with subject matter experts and realised topical and innovative outcomes” says Dr Nusem.

The team explored the connections between new design practises and medical technology and how these are made possible by advancements in the life sciences through a sustainable process. Our students – Giselle Gray, Soomin Lee, Christine Teng, Grace Charles and Denis Sylvester – imagined a future where burns could be treated with a smart bandage they named HydroHeal.

Smartphone showing patient feedback

Hydroheal uses smartphones to provide instant patient feedback.

Given the market saturation in wound healing bandages, the concept aims to create a gel bandage for superficial-partial burns that provides active feedback on the patient’s healing process. HydroHeal would be made using sustainable resources such as seaweed and collagen in the hope that it could become a standardised application in the field of medicine worldwide.

The ideas began to formulate and develop as the team undertook in-depth research including interviews with patients, clinicians and research teams. The decision was made to create a gel bandage which possessed nano-particles containing sensors which provide feedback on bio markers such as temperature, pH, 02 and moisture; a massive undertaking, but one that has provided the students with an incredible experience.

Students were encouraged to explore how they might harness these advancements, how these new applications might look and function, and ultimately how they will affect our lives and environment.

While it may be sometime until such technology becomes a reality, the University’s team has successfully anticipated and answered ways to improve our lives, and their visions are leading us into a sustainable future.

“The concept has become our focus over the last four months as we have worked week in and week out to refine a unique product. Though it has been hard to think ‘outside the box’, seeing the design come to life has made the whole process totally worth it. We cannot wait to go to New York and present our findings, represent our university and meet other students from around the world!” said Grace Charles, Bachelor of Engineering (Biomedical)/Bachelor of Medical Science student.

Our team will showcase their project at MoMA on June 21 and 22 to an audience of over 200 including curators, artists, designers and scientists. Projects will be judged according to three sets of criteria: conceptual elegance, presentation and consideration of various cultural and environmental factors. The overall winning team is presented with the Glass Mircrobe, created by artist Luke Jerram, a unique artwork and symbol of the intersection of art, design and biology.

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