Chewing robot scoops prize for student

A student who designed a ‘chewing robot’ to help understand the wear and tear undergone by human teeth has scooped a prestigious science prize.

Daniel Raabe, a former PhD student in the Queens School of Engineering at the University of Bristol, has been awarded first prize and the Paul Roell Medal in the prestigious 2010 Zwick Science Awards for his PhD work in the area of dental materials testing.

There were 53 entries from 16 countries competing for the prize.

The mechanical mandible, which mimics the action of a human jaw, tests new types of crowns and other dental fittings which can prove costly and time consuming when tested on human subjects.

Researchers at the University of Bristol’s Department of Mechanical Engineering worked in collaboration with the Department of Oral and Dental Science.

Dr Kazem Alemzadehv, senior lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the university, came up with the concept after seeing aircraft simulators using similar movements.

He recognised that the Stewart-Gough platforms have been used to provide and control the same six degrees of freedom in aircraft simulators, and so he proposed the chewing robot concept based on the same principle.

The design and development of the chewing robot was carried out by Daniel alongside Dr Andrew Harrison, senior lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Dr Tony Ireland, a tutor at the Dental School, has also been involved in the development and testing of the robot.

Mr Raabe said: ‘By reproducing natural bite forces and movements, the chewing robot can help improve and accelerate the process of developing new dental restorative materials that may someday be found in a person’s mouth.’

The UK spends around £2.5 billion each year on dental materials to replace or strengthen teeth.

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