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New Artificial Foot Recycles Energy For A More Natural Walk

University of Michigan Artificial Foot: Photo: Steve CollinsUniversity of Michigan Artificial Foot: Photo: Steve Collins

The device pictured upstairs might appear a little intimidating to anyone with a less technical prosthetic limb (or those who have ever angered anyone with a prosthetic limb), but despite its intense demeanor, the artificial foot is designed for the good of mankind. All those tiny, functioning pieces are designed to recycle energy created by walking and use it to help create a more natural walking function.

Designed by University of Michigan researchers, the prosthetic foot mimics the ankle push-off of a human foot, something a standard prosthetic cannot do. The result is that the amount of extra energy needed to walk in the prosthetic (vs. with a human foot) is cut from 23 percent (normal prosthetic) to 14 percent.

According to Art Kuo, U of M professor in the Biomedical Engineering and  departments:"For , what they experience when they're trying to walk normally is what I would experience if I were carrying an extra 30 pounds."

The push-off is powered by a battery that stores energy ordinarily dissipated when the foot hits the ground. A microcontroller delivers the energy at the precise moment it's needed for push-off. Recycling spent energy helps to limit the size of the battery, making a lighter, more versatile solution.

We're always excited to see innovation and technology going to benefit the good of mankind. This device definitely delivers in that category. 

There's no indication of when a commercial version might be available, but the foot is currently being tested at the Seattle Veterans Affairs Medical Center and is under production consideration by a Michigan company.

Physorg via Inhabitat