Queen's Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
Walking takes little brain power, but it does require energy. In fact, it is the most that we do as part of our daily lives. What if we could put on an exoskeleton that worked with our muscles to ease some of the metabolic burdens of walking? Such a suit could in accident rehabilitation, outdoor adventurers or on-foot search parties hike longer with ease, and even make day-to-day activities like running errands less taxing.
In a recently published in the journal Science, a team of engineers from Queen's University in Canada developed a backpack-mounted exoskeleton that reduces the metabolic cost of walking by 2.5 percent. At the same time, the device harnesses energy produced by walking and converts it to 0.25 watts of electricity (for reference, cell phone chargers generally use about of electrical power).
Weighing approximately two pounds, the exoskeleton consists of cables that run parallel to a user’s hamstrings and attach to their ankles. The cables feed into pulleys on the user’s back, which connect to a generator. The system works by helping slow the leg down during the late "swing phase" of the walking cycle, after the leg has extended forward and the foot is about to touch the ground. Essentially, the device helps . The generator powered through this resistance converts the energy into electricity. This electrical power could then be used to supply people with electricity or powered, assisted movement.
This study, , illustrates that exoskeletons are not a futuristic fantasy, but a real possibility. It points to practical implications for exoskeletons beyond assisting mobility,. As exoskeletons become more , they have a greater chance of entering the mainstream market. Some day, we may all have an exoskeleton in our closets.