Walking made easy: Modern Clutch Invented
The past decade has seen a huge advancement in the field of healthcare with successful attempts in making the life of physically challenged more comfortable. There have been a number of inventions brought to public notice for the easy rehabilitation of people with walking disabilities.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon and North Carolina State University have come up with an elegant solution to enhance the walking the walking efficiency. The research team details their latest creation—a wearable boot-like exoskeleton that can reduce the energy cost of walking by 7 percent. The key point for this boot is the non-requirement of any battery powered motors making it more likely to lie in the affordable range for the common people.
The researchers derive inspiration from the working mechanism of human ankle. Close examination reveals that the major power comes from the muscles and tendons around the ankle. Thereby making it the most interesting part to be studied.
By studying the motion of human leg through ultrasound images the researchers were able to get a good grasp over the working of calf muscle in coordination with the Achilles tendon. And could relate it to the working mechanism of clutch found in cars wherein the tendon acts like a spring, engaging and disengaging with every step. This motion has been imitated by the boot by placing the clutch mechanism on a carbon fiber frame.
Thus by not making use of any motors, the boot is able to save 7% of the muscle energy of the wearer which was understood by studying the studying the oxygen consumption and CO2 exhaled during a walk.
An increase in 7% walking efficiency is equivalent to removing a 10-pound load from your backpack. This could prove to be very useful for hikers and athletes and also help people with weaker mobility in a certain limb. The researchers also believe that these boots will help the aging baby boomers who want to remain active and need a little extra help to do so. Though the effects of long term use maybe loss of muscle mass but since no chemical or electrical energy is involved the product will be cheaper enabling all of us to walk efficiently.
“Smaller, cheaper, and more streamlined is better in the end,” Sawicki says. “If it’s too expensive, it’s not going to be accessible to the general public.”