Human beings walk in scandal, we are truly exceptional pedestrians. However, walking is metabolically expensive and, if we could do the math, we would see that requires more energy than any other activity in daily life. It seems silly, but it is precisely this that has obsessed many of the engineers and scientists who work in the world of the exoskeleton.
Some have spent their time using these mechanical mechanisms to reduce waste and make the walking process easier by adding (or recycling) energy from body movements. Others, on the other hand, have designed devices capable of “harvesting” the body’s mechanical energy and converting it into usable electrical energy. What no one had achieved was to do both: a device that would make it easier for us to walk and, at the same time, turn us into small energy plants in motion. Up to now.
It is not the exoskeleton we want, but it is the one we need
Michael Shepertycky and his team sought a different approach not by recycling energy from the gait phase, but strategically removing kinetic energy during the knee swing phase for each cycle of the gait. In this way, there is an effective saving in the costs of the body to operate the muscles of the upper part of the leg (which act as “biological brakes” that control and slow the swing out).
Later, that removed kinetic energy is converted into electrical energy by an integrated generator. According to the results published today by Science, this new approach was able to reduce the metabolic cost of walking by up to 3.3% and regained 0.25 watts per cycle marching. It’s not much, it’s true, but it’s a very interesting approach that allows us to move forward to a world where exoskeletons become something much less futuristic.
Images and Videos | Phil Coffman and Queen’s University of Engineering and Applied Science