Artificial foot recycles energy with every step

The concept device works by mimicking the natural push-off of a human ankle, using a microprocessor to control the device and capture the energy normally dissipated by the leg.

prosthetic foot
Steven H. Collins, Arthur D. Kuo

artificial foot
Steven H. Collins, Arthur D. Kuo

Researchers at the University of Michigan and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have created a prosthesis that makes walking much easier on amputees than current options. The trick: an artificial foot that recycles the kinetic energy generated by walking.

The device, detailed Wednesday in the journal PLoS One, works by mimicking the natural push-off of a human ankle, using a microprocessor to control the device and capture the energy normally dissipated by the leg:

In tests on subjects walking with an artificially impaired ankle, a conventional prosthesis reduced ankle push-off work and increased net metabolic energy expenditure by 23 percent compared to normal walking. Energy recycling restored ankle push-off to normal and reduced the net metabolic energy penalty to 14 percent.

That means less cumbersome dragging of an artificial limb and a more natural walking sensation. It also only requires a small battery to operate, running off of less than 1 watt of power.

It's just a prototype for now, but assuming the current round of testing goes well, there's no reason not to expect a commercial application in the not-too-distant future.

This story originally appeared on Gizmodo.

 

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