Electro-Mechanical Polymers (EMPs) are a unique type of electro-active polymer (EAP) that provide piezoelectric effects without the need for high operating voltages. In an unpowered state, the molecular structure of the EMP film is randomly aligned. When powered, the molecules align in one direction and expand, creating a piezoelectric effect. EMP actuators are created when this material is bonded to a rigid substrate. When powered, the single-direction expansion of the material causes the substrate to vibrate, thus creating haptics feedback at low frequencies and audio feedback at higher frequencies. This unique material behavior enables EMP actuators and products to provide superior tensile and elastic properties that can endure higher applied forces. It is also the reason this technology is so thin and requires relatively low operating voltages when compared to traditional vibrational motors or piezoelectric benders. EMP products have a unique blend of force and modulus, making it well-suited for a multitude of applications. Highly customizable in size and strength, EMP actuators enable completely new sensory interfaces and user experiences for many applications.
The Neo-Sensory Age is an Age where previously lifeless electronic devices come alive through touch and touch feedback– aided by new breakthroughs in ultra-thin, nearly invisible sensors and actuators that respond to human touch. It's a new way humans interact with machines and it's the defining future for wearables. Given the ever-increasing quantities and types of information that surrounds us, and to which we need to respond rapidly, there is a critical need to explore new ways to interact with information, said Mandayam A Srinivasan, Director of the Laboratory for Human and Machine Haptics (The Touch Lab) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among the most promising technologies driving the miniaturization of actuators and sensors is this EMP technology. For example, wearable devices enabled with EMP technology will give us tactile feedback exactly where we touch it (instead of vibrating the entire device), will differentiate the left from the right in a navigation application, will pulse on the arm wrist as a real pulse during an emotional exchange, will give us alerts identifying tactily who is calling, will give us the tactile hit when we play a game, and many more natural experiences. With the ability to transform single-use parts of the device into responsive, multi-use components, designers can effectively expand the capabilities of the wearable device. As people begin to explore new, innovative ways to enhance user experience through wearables, new material technologies and products will allow manufacturers and designers to integrate haptic feedback in an effective, meaningful way. How successful wearable technology becomes will depend on the miniaturization and power of these actuators and sensors to create the realness consumers crave. Wearables will create a comprehensive sensory experience – enabling devices to come alive through collocated touch feedback, vibrations, sounds, movement, and real-time surface deformation. This human-device relationship will have disruptive impact on industries from consumer electronics to automotive and healthcare.
Electro-Mechanical Polymer (EMP) actuators from Novasentis are based on a major scientific discovery made by co-founder Qiming Zhang. The revolutionary EMP technology provides consumer electronics makers with the most advanced actuator and sensor technology, allowing devices to come alive with co-located vibrations, movement, morphing and sound. As the creator of the world's thinnest actuator, Novasentis is enabling a new generation of ultra thin, ultra flexible and ultra light devices that bring new sensory and emotional experiences to users. The company wants to use their innovative micro-material dynamics to redefine man-machine interactions. By creating lighter, thinner, smaller, and more flexible components they aim to radically transform devices, bringing new user interfaces, experiences and modes of interaction. The EMP can create vibration, play audio, or even morph and change shape depending on the information sent to the actuator.
In an interview with Medgadgets, Christophe Ramstein, President and CEO, opined on how this new technology will impact the medical device industry - The current best application EMP has for the medical device industry is in cardiovascular diseases. Cardiovascular disease is a global problem, and the core guide-by-wire catheter technology used to treat this disease has remained the same for seven decades. The ability to dynamically drive devices inside the body will drastically simplify the everyday challenges of surgeons. With Novasentis digital catheter solution, surgeons no longer need to use pre-shaped catheter tips, and can dynamically navigate the catheter within the body to reach arteries. This increases patient safety, decreases chances of damage within the body, and greatly minimizes in-surgery time. This is an extraordinary development and we are very excited for the new possibilities it represents.
From paper-thin keyboards less than 1mm to the morphing surfaces of tomorrow's displays, haptics and vibro-tactile feedback is a very exciting application. Haptics refers to our sense of touch and being touched. Our hands have over 14,000 sensors; when we touch things, it is these sensors that communicate textures, kinesthetic feedback, temperature, and pressure—all of which allow us to feel Novasentis, Inc and HumanWare, the global leader in assistive technologies for people who are blind or have low vision, revealed a ground-breaking partnership to embed miniaturized sensory feedback actuators into devices serving the 285 million people that are blind or visually impaired. By leveraging this paper-thin and flexible EMP actuator and sensor technology, HumanWare will be developing and bringing to market new products with richer tactile feedback that will make it easier for visually impaired to experience and interact with digital content on computers and mobile devices. This co-development effort offers Novasentis the opportunity to put its patented EMP technology to work in a brand new vertical – for the good of sight-impaired people who depend on touch and audio feedback to connect with the world. It also signifies the rapid growth and demand for advanced haptic technology in a variety of industries, including consumer electronics, automotive, healthcare and more.