Scientists have developed an exoskeleton that allows amputees to feel like they’re walking with normal feet using battery-powered electric motors. The robust exoskeleton, which wraps around the waist and leg, was developed by a team of engineers at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
According to the British newspaper, “Daily Mail”, the amputee’s exoskeleton is designed and uses battery-powered electric motors and microprocessors to reduce walking effort.
The frame also weighs 5.4 pounds and is made of carbon fiber, plastic and aluminum composites, and can walk for miles between charges.
Those wearing it experienced a 15.6% drop in metabolic rate, the team said, which is the equivalent of taking off a 26-pound backpack while out for a long walk.
They also don’t know how much the final device will cost, or when it will be available for general use, but they hope to bring it to market soon.
A above-knee amputation severely reduces millions of people’s mobility and quality of life, due in large part to the removal of so many calf muscles in surgery.
Standard artificial legs do not fully replicate the biomechanical functions of the human leg, but the new exoskeleton improves strength and range of motion.
Above-knee amputees work harder while walking by straining their remaining limb and healthy limb muscles to compensate for the lack of energy from the prosthesis, so the goal of the exoskeleton is to provide that extra energy until walking becomes normal again, making it as close as possible to having two legs. As natural as possible.
The device features a lightweight and effective electromechanical actuator attached to the user’s thigh above the amputation area, and the belt around the waist contains customized electronic systems, microcontrollers and sensors that work with advanced control algorithms.