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Cornell ECE researchers win Outstanding Paper Award for silicon tweezer to aid in surgical operations

Friday, March 7, 2014

Optical images of the fabricated tweezer

Every day, surgeons must choose which tools they use to understand the mechanical integrity and properties of tissue. In general, these decisions are made without quantitative data and rely on the doctor’s experience.

To address this issue, Cornell researchers have developed a multi-function silicon tweezer for characterizing the electromechanical properties of tissue during surgical procedures. By using the device to tweeze tissue, insertion force, permittivity, and electrical properties can be monitored simultaneously at different locations to provide fast information during time-critical surgeries.

The team’s findings were published in the paper, A silicon electro-mechano tissue assay surgical tweezer, which was submitted to the 27th IEEE International Conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) 2014 Conference. Out of more than 325 accepted papers, it was one of only four selected to receive the Outstanding Paper Award.

“We are very excited about this device,” said Po-Cheng Chen, the paper’s lead author. “Silicon has been widely used for its semiconductor properties. However, it also shows outstanding mechanical properties. These characteristics allow it to be used for the design of tweezers for normal surgical operations. With integrated sensors, this tool can provide surgeons with more information during surgery and can make operations more precise. It is a great honor for us to win this award.”

The team includes Po-Cheng Chen, Ph.D. student, SonicMEMS Lab, Cornell School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE); Amit Lal, Professor, Cornell, ECE; Connie Wu, NNIN 2013 summer CNF REU (Research Experience Undergraduate), Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Pennsylvania; and Dr. Fabrizio Michelassi, M.D, F.A.C.S., Chairman of Surgery and The Lewis Atterbury Stimson Professor of Surgery, Weil Cornell Medical College, and Surgeon-in-Chief, New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

The tweezer also addresses a key problem during intestinal anastomoses surgical operations where stapling devices are used to seal tissue.

According to the paper, multiple thin-film sensors are integrated along with the silicon tweezer, and four sets of strain gauges, two sets of permittivity sensors, and 16 platinum bio-potential recording electrodes are also included. A set of piezoelectric transducers is attached on the legs of the tweezer for gap monitoring with 20 μm displacement resolution. The silicon tweezer structure can perform tweezing motion without silicon fracture. As a result, the device can estimate tissue stiffness through applied force and distance variation.

 

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