UK researchers scooped six prizes at this year’s National Instruments Graphical System Design Achievement Awards.
A team from the University of Leeds chaired by Dr David Keeling led the charge, winning the top prize in the life sciences category as well as the humanitarian prize and the overall prize for their standalone hardware-in-a-loop testing environment for the simulation of the human heart, based on NI’s CompactRIO programmable automation controller.
Dr Keeling said: “It’s like winning the World Cup or a gold medal in the Olympics. We were up against some really big companies and we only had a relatively small budget. I didn’t expect to win at all.”
The system was built to reliably test the Intelligent Ventricular Assist Device, or iVad, which was also designed at the university’s engineering department. The iVad is made from a specially-woven biocompatible web and functions as an artificial muscle that is wrapped around a weak or failing heart. It assists cardiovascular function by applying compressive force in time with the heart’s natural rhythm. This squeezing action leads to a stronger output for the diseased heart.
Dr Keeling said: “Recent research has found that with some heart diseases, supporting the heart for a short period with an assistive device reduces the work-load and allows the heart to rest and recover. Our device also allows for a controlled relaxation of the muscle after contraction, which means that it’s being supported throughout the whole heartbeat process. It’s the same as when you pull a muscle in any other part of your body, rest can often be the best therapy.”
The award-winning simulator features a mechanical heart constructed with a framework of buckled steel spring strips at each end to match the size and shape to a reference heart model. A pair of linear actuators flexes these strips, mimicking the action of a real heart, and conformable pressure sensors inside the chambers are used to record the blood flow with and without the iVad engaged.
Elsewhere, Diverse Energy took the top prize in the energy category for its PowerCube – a software controlled ammonia cracking system to provide clean energy to Africa and enable mobile phone coverage to become more stable and far-reaching. Also, Protean Electric was given the green prize for its in-wheel electric vehicle testing system.
Winners were announced at an awards dinner held on 7 August 2012 in Austin, Texas, as part of the annual NI Week gathering.
Find out more about NI’s Graphical System Design Achievement Awards.