‘Smart’ wall to keep aged safe

MATERIAL GIRL: Professor Tuba Kocaturk leads researchers investigating 'smart' walls to improve safety for elderly residents.

by Luke Voogt

‘Smart’ walls and floors could help protect elderly residents in their own homes, according to a group of Geelong-based researchers.

Researchers at Deakin University’s Geelong waterfront campus are investigating graphene sensing surfaces on walls and floors inside buildings.

Ultra-thin sensors in the graphene coating can report changes in temperature, pressure and humidity, just like human skin, according to lead researcher Tuba Kocaturk.

“We are currently looking to establish test floors on a number of locations including the Mediated Intelligence in Design Lab at Deakin University’s Waterfront campus,” she said.

“With these coatings, the surface becomes ‘smart’ and information captured through these surfaces is then delivered into a (computer network).”

The coating would allow operators to analyse data from large surfaces in buildings and respond efficiently in real-time, Professor Kocaturk said.

The system had potential to significantly advance efficiency and safety in buildings, she said.

Prof Kocaturk and her team from Deakin’s School of Architecture and Built Environment were working with Geelong-based materials innovator Imagine on the project.

Similar materials were already common in the mining, automotive and aerospace industries, Imagine chief executive officer Chris Gilbey explained.

“But there is limited understanding of the potential for this technology inside public and private buildings,” he said.

“We are exploring how this technology can be used to create an intelligent home care system so that behavioural information can be recorded, analysed and shared in real-time.”

Geelong-based Chinese research fellow Rui Wang, from Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology, was also working on the project.

Dr Wang’s ageing parents are among a growing population of older people living in China without in-home family support.

“In China there will be 118 million empty-nesters by 2020 and their health and wellbeing is a major concern to their children and society,” she said.

“A graphene sensing smart floor could detect falls or spills, and notify families or nearby hospitals in case of emergency.”

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