Exoskeleton takes strain off legs to lessen energy necessary for walking

An electrical generator included in a backpack can make walking more efficient by firmly taking the strain off quads, while also harvesting a small amount of electrical energy. The device reduces the energy required to walk by a lot more than 3 per cent and may also charge small electrical devices.

Many exoskeletons have been made to make humans stronger or even more efficient. Some have a power source and actively assist limb movement. But Michael Shepertycky at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, and his colleagues have finally created an totally passive system that reduces the effort required to walk.

The look resists the forward swing of the leg throughout a stride and slows it prior to the foot strikes the ground, a thing that usually requires movement of the Achilles tendon.

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The device weighs 1.3 kilograms and fits into a tiny backpack, while two thin cable runs from there right down to ankles and strap around the legs. As the foot swings forward throughout a stride, this cable resists slightly by spinning a power generator.

Currently, that generator doesn’t even power the small amount of electronics in the backpack. But Shepertycky is confident that, with small improvements, it will not only do this but also have the ability to charge other small devices, for instance a smartphone.

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He and his colleagues tested these devices on a treadmill with 10 male walkers and discovered that it reduced the metabolic effort of walking by 3.3 %, while also converting the removed energy into roughly 0.25 watts.

“Within a short while of walking with these devices, it does feel pretty natural. In the event that you were to walk with the device or go for a hike with it, by the end of your day, you’d feel less tired,” he says. “This may really help hikers that are walking all day, as well as mail carriers or nurses towards the end of their shift to become a lot less tired.”

Current tests have focused on walking on flat ground, but Shepertycky hopes that future experiments will show efficiency gains in walking along hills and at different speeds. It’s possible that such something could even make running better. “We may have the ability to assist running and beat some records for the marathon,” he says. “It’s hard to state.”

The team has patented these devices and is exploring commercialisation. Shepertycky believes that since it is passive and doesn’t require motors, movable joints or a good frame, it must be “a fraction” of the cost of active exoskeletons.

Journal reference: Science , DOI: 10.1126/science.aba9947

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An electrical generator included in a backpack can make walking more efficient by firmly taking the strain off quads, while also harvesting a small amount of electrical energy. The device reduces the energy required to walk by a lot more than 3 per cent and may also charge small electrical devices. Many exoskeletons have been…

An electrical generator included in a backpack can make walking more efficient by firmly taking the strain off quads, while also harvesting a small amount of electrical energy. The device reduces the energy required to walk by a lot more than 3 per cent and may also charge small electrical devices. Many exoskeletons have been…

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