Biological tissues routinely experience large strains and undergo large deformations during normal physiologic activity. Biological tissue deformation is well beyond the range of standard strain gauges, and hence must often be captured using expensive and non-portable options such as optical marker tracking methods that may rely upon significant post-processing. This study develops portable gauges that operate in real time and are compatible with the large strains seen by biological materials. The new gauges are based on a relatively new technique for quantifying large strain in real-time (up to 40 %) by use of a piezoresistive nano-composite strain gauge. The nano-composite strain gauges (NCSGs) are manufactured by suspending nickel nanostrands within a biocompatible silicone matrix. The conductive nickel filaments come into progressively stronger electrical contact with each other as the NCSG is strained, thus reducing the electrical resistance that is then measured using a four-probe method. This thesis summarizes progress in the understanding, design and application of NCSGs for biomechanical applications. The advanced understanding arises from a nano-junction-level finite element analysis of gap evolution that models how the geometry varies with strain in the critical regions between nickel particles. Future work will incorporate this new analysis into global models of the overall piezoresistive phenomenon. The improvements in design focused on the manufacturing route to obtain a reliable thin and flexible gauge, along with a modified connection and data extraction system to reduce drift issues that were present in all previous tests. Furthermore, a pottable data logging system was developed for mobile applications. Finally, a method of analyzing the resultant data was formulated, based upon cross-correlation techniques, in order to distinguish between characteristic wave-forms for distinct physical activities. All of these improvements were successfully demonstrated via a gait-tracking system applied to the insole of standard running shoes.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





nanocomposite, high deflection, strain gauge, microcontroller