Inspired by advanced technology found in hybrid cars, Dr Max Donelan led a team of Canadian and American researchers to develop an electricity generating knee brace that has countless practical, medical, and military applications.
“Walking is a lot like stop-and-go driving,” explained Dr Max Donelan of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada, lead author of the paper.
“Within each stride muscles are continuously accelerating and decelerating the body.
Hybrid electric cars take advantage of stop-and-go driving using so-called “regenerative braking” where the energy normally dissipated as heat is used to drive a generator.
“We have essentially applied the same principle to walking.”
Using a series of gears, the knee brace assists the hamstring in slowing the body just before the foot hits the ground, whilst simultaneously generating electricity.
Sensors on the device switch the generator off for the remainder of each step.
In this way, the device puts less strain on the wearer than if it was constantly producing energy.
“On the medical front, portable power is used by those who have amputated limbs to charge their powered prosthetic limbs,” he said.
However, Dr Art Kuo at the University of Michigan does not believe it will be simply a case of strapping the device on to an existing prosthetic.
“It would probably involve building a new [prosthetic] knee that uses some existing ideas and then also tries to harvest energy using these principles,” he said.
Read more at BBC News…
Abstract: Biomechanical Energy Harvesting: Generating Electricity During Walking with Minimal User Effort
(hat tip: Medlaunches)