In her teens, Katherine Bomkamp decided to tackle phantom limb pain for the science fair at her school.
Her prototype prosthesis used battery-powered foot warmers to apply heat to the stump, the way you’d soothe sore muscles; she later found research indicating that heat distracts the brain from pain. She took first place at the science fair and received an honourable mention at the 2010 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
Bomkamp has continued to develop the device. Her most recent prototype has automatic temperature regulation, embedded thermo-resistive wiring and a solar-powered lithium-ion battery. She received a patent last year. The next step is to launch human trials.
Watch a video explaining the story behind her pain-free socket…
Bomkamp’s pain-fighting prosthesis won the Next-Generation Award in the Popular Mechanics 2012 Breakthrough Awards – an annual competition where we salute the greatest innovations. Get your hands on PM’s Dec ’12 issue – on sale on 19 November – to find out about the best bold ideas of 2012.