Robotic ankle makes a splash
Have you ever wondered whether we will be able to reach the level of medical advancement such as found in I, Robot and the Star Wars universe? Body parts that are replaced with bionic segments which not only offer the ability to function in an even more efficient manner compared to the original, and yet is far longer lasting. Perhaps mankind has just taken another step closer to such an age, where research engineers over at Vrije Universiteit Brussel have managed to develop a new powered transtibial prosthesis that is capable of mimicking natural ankle movement, while ensuring that it uses energy in an efficient manner. Rather they relying on powerful motors which start and stop with every step, this particular new system will run a small electrical motor non-stop, ensuring that it keeps stretching a rubber band, which will result in energy that the bionic foot can use as a source of motive power.
Through the act of lowering the overall energy requirement of prostheses, this means that you need not use more batteries, and smaller batteries are always a good thing as it ensures that the overall weight of the device remains lowered. Not only that, being smaller would mean it is more quiet, while more efficient motors also help simplify design as well as implementation purposes.
Called the AMP-Foot 2.0, it relies on a spring that is called the plantar flexion (PF) spring, helping accumulate energy from the dorsiflexion phase of stance while the actuator is actually injecting energy into another spring, where the latter is known as the push-off (PO) spring – and that happens during the complete stance phase. A locking system will see energy stashed in the PO spring, before heel off (HO) occurs, which remains within the system for a release so that a push-off can happen. We do wonder just how much something like this is going to cost when it becomes publicly available.