Artificial foot harnesses kinetic energy while walking

by Mark R

It’s pretty amazing what they can do with prosthesis these days, but these mechanical arms and legs tend to drag a little as the human walks.

In order to make these prosthesis parts more in sync with humans, people from the University of Michigan and Delft University in the Netherlands are conducting some new experiments. These researchers are tying to create an artificial foot that can recycle the kinetic energy generated by the stepping of the foot itself.

Here’s the basic concept: this foot mimics the natural “push-off” of the human ankle, and then uses “a microprocessor to control the device and capture the energy that is normally dissipated by the leg”. Current studies with the experimental foot have shown that “energy recycling restored ankle push-off to normal and reduced the net metabolic energy penalty to 14 percent”.

I am told that this prosthetic leg requires a small battery to operate, and it runs off less than one watt of power. Of course, if you are harnessing the kinetic energy of walking, then is there any reason that we cannot set it up so that the walking and running will charge the battery?

Of course, I don’t really know much about this technology to assume something like that. After all, this is still concept technology. So if it is possible to charge the battery by walking, I’m sure they’ll figure that one out.

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