No, we are not talking about a flying carpet that would go over, under and sideways! But it is an equally magical carpet for the elderly for it could save their lives.
Researchers at University of Manchester, England have developed a carpet with sensors that can detect falls or changes in walking patterns and alert the caregivers. Why is this important? Falls is one of the most serious concerns among the elderly -- as many as 30-40% have some kind of fall-related accident each year.
Woven inside the carpet are thin optical fibers that carry light. When people step on this carpet, it will cause the light rays to bend in that area. This change is captured by tiny sensors that send the information to a computer.
What is an optic fiber?
You may have heard of fiber optic cables from your cable or internet provider. Most of your television and internet is delivered to you through these cables. These are the very same fibers that the team used in the design of the carpet.
Optic fibers are small, extremely-thin (as small as 9 microns in diameter) glass tubes through which infrared light travels. If you were to shine light through a straight glass tube, you would expect it to be visible at the other end, isn't it. But what if the wire had bends in it?
Since light cannot bend, we will need mirrors.. and plenty of them, to reflect the light. And that's how fiber optics cables work -- they have mirrors lining the wall of the glass tube. The infrared light bounces off these mirrors continuously as it travels along the length of the glass fiber. Since this light is not absorbed by the walls, it can travel over larger distances.
Charles Kao, a Chinese-born U.S physicist was the first to develop the first pure optic fiber in 1960 and was awarded the 2009 Nobel prize for his ground-breaking discovery. Besides high speed internet, optical fibers are used in endoscopes for viewing the interior of hollow organs in the body. They enable physicians to look and work inside the body through tiny incisions without having to perform surgery.
The magic carpet can be easily added to existing floors, and could improve quality of life for the elderly. It is amazing how achievements in maths, science and engineering are bringing together exciting new applications in healthcare.