Image: Invent Penn State
In the span of a single minute, two people have lost a limb somewhere in the world. Research shows that there are approximately 1 million amputations around the world — and 185,000 in the U.S. — every year. However, traditional prosthetics rarely provide the ease of motion needed to empower amputees, with many complaining about pain, instability and fatigue.
For Impulse Technology, restoring mobility and improving the quality of life for amputees isn’t just a lofty goal. It’s the mission around which co-founders Dr. Kamrun Nahar and Dr. Aman Haque founded the company.
Dr. Nahar, Impulse Technology’s CEO, worked as part of the research faculty in Penn State’s College of Engineering. She focused her research on developing a thought-guided robotic control algorithm to help people with neurological problems move using a brain computer interface. The research aimed to create an alternative pathway allowing the brain to communicate with an external device, such as a prosthetic. Similarly, Dr. Haque, the company’s CTO, has been with Penn State University’s Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering since 2003. The Professor of Mechanical Engineering specializes in nano-scale materials behavior, in situ transmission electron microscopy, Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) and the mechanical, electrical and thermal properties of ultra-thin films. In 2013, Dr. Nahar and Dr. Haque joined forces to launch Impulse Technology.
“Our team also includes researchers experienced in mechanical, chemical, materials and industrial engineering,” explains Dr. Nahar. “We also have advisors with experience in business development and management, and prosthetists with clinical and research experience.”
At the heart of Impulse Technology beats a desire to make the world a better place, both in the prosthetics arena and beyond.
One of the company's projects, a thermoelectric energy harvester, aims to create a way to power up IoT sensors more efficiently, without the pollution, maintenance and ambient waste heat associated with traditional sources. The science converts waste heat into a thermal battery that's less expensive and more efficient. Considering the trillions of sensors that are projected to be operating by 2025, this patent-protected technology has the potential to be a game changer for Industry 4.0.
Impulse Technology is also working on a project to harvest energy generated by humans to power up medical sensors. The potential? An innovation that allows energy-efficient monitoring for the military, and other wearable monitoring systems.
The company has also made great strides in addressing the needs of amputees, roughly 50% of whom suffer with misaligned prosthetics.
“Every year in this country, there are around 185,000 amputation-related hospital discharges, with an approximate hospital cost of $8.7 billion,” says Dr. Nahar. “Our passive prosthetic product will give patients the comfort that’s expected from a robotic leg, but without the heavy weight, complexity and cost.”
Impulse Technology’s self-aligning ankle prosthesis is designed for military personnel and civilians alike. It addresses the needs of those who suffer from the loss of their lower limb due to diabetes or other injuries. Dr. Nahar notes, “The compliant mechanism-based self-alignment feature contributes to comfort and mimicry of natural biomechanical functions, reduced amputee-prosthetist time and lower clinical costs.”
Considering that the company’s co-founders’ Penn State roots, its ties to Happy Valley aren’t surprising. But that’s not the only reason that Impulse Technology chose this amazing region as its home.
After deciding to start a company, its co-founders received entrepreneurial training, business setup guidance, business development and investment support from Ben Franklin Technology Partners. “We also got legal counsel and support through PSU Law and IP clinics at the Happy Valley LaunchBox,” says Dr. Nahan. “We had access to other services, too, including Penn State Venture Connection conferences, Penn State Leadership Network conferences and PA Tax credit services through CBICC.”
Happy Valley was the natural location to choose as the duo launched their business. They have since become a vital part of the region. “We’re a member of Invent Penn State’s incubator program and a portfolio company of Ben Franklin Technology Partners,” says Dr. Nahar. “We’ve also partnered with Ability P&O, a prosthetic company that’s headquartered in Exton. Our sponsors include the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Defense.”
Impulse Technologies is on a mission to give amputees a better quality of life by empowering them with improved mobility. At the heart of what this Industry 4.0 company does lies the research and development of products and innovations to fulfill that mission. It specializes in high-impact mechanical and energy applications and is currently developing a below-knee prosthetic component designed to function much like a natural leg. To learn more, visit https://www.impulse-technology.com/