Keck Futures Grant Supports Development of Liquid Electrodes for ‘Smart’ Prosthetics

April 10, 2007

Warren GrillThe National Academies Keck Futures Initiative today announced that Warren Grill, of Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, and David Martin, of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, are recipients of a 2006 Futures grant to support their work on smart prosthetics. The competitive seed grants aim to fill a critical gap for research on bold new ideas, according to The National Academies.

Grill and Martin will investigate whether rubber electrodes can record electrical signals from and deliver electrical stimulation to peripheral nerves. Their system includes liquid electrodes that harden after injection into the body to enable minimally invasive electrical interfaces with peripheral nerves for applications in prosthetic devices.

In total,16 projects were awarded up to $75,000 in funding for a wide range of approaches to research on assistive devices, which were the subject of the fourth Futures conference, "Smart Prosthetics: Exploring Assistive Devices for the Body and Mind," held last November in Irvine, Calif.

"We received many creative proposals and believe we have selected the best research projects to pursue," said Hunter Peckham, conference chairman and professor at Case Western Reserve University, in a news release prepared by the National Academies.

Major federal funding programs do not typically provide grants in areas that are considered risky or unusual. The Futures grants therefore allow researchers to start developing a line of inquiry by recruiting students and postdoctoral fellows, purchasing equipment, and acquiring preliminary data, positioning them to compete for larger awards from other public and private sources.

Established through a $40 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation in 2003, the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative is a 15-year effort to enhance communication among researchers, funding agencies, universities, and the general public--with the objective of stimulating interdisciplinary research at the most exciting frontiers. The complete list of this year's Futures grant recipients is available here.