On Thursday, May 27, 2021, Queen’s University announced that the development and evaluation of its backpack-mounted exoskeleton prototype has been published in Science, one of the world’s leading academic journals.
A multidisciplinary team from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Queen’s University created the prototype that will allow users to walk further while using less energy, according to a university statement. The backpack-mounted prototype removes energy during a specific phase of the walking cycle, thereby reducing the metabolic cost of walking.
“For the first time, we have shown that suppressing energy can increase the efficiency of walking,” said Michael Shepertycky, recent PhD from Queen’s University and lead author of the study. “This is a significant breakthrough in the field of exoskeletal development, and one that has the potential to change the way we approach assisted walking.”
Unlike existing exoskeleton technologies that add energy or transfer it from one phase of the walking cycle to another, the university said this new device helps users by removing energy that helps muscles in the body. knee during a critical moment, called the terminal oscillation phase. The team is considering technology – which weighs just over half a kilogram – allowing hikers to cover longer distances or help nurses be less tired after a long shift on their feet.
“Improving the economics of walking and running has been an important research topic over the past two decades, due to its scientific and practical implications,” said Dr. Qingguo Li, co-lead author of Study and Associate Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Queen’s University. “Walking is a delicate and highly optimized process, which makes it difficult to use exoskeletons to improve walking efficiency.”
In addition to helping the user, the device converts the extracted energy into electricity that can be used to power the device’s control system and other portable devices, the university said. This energy harvesting ability could be particularly useful for people traveling on foot to remote locations, allowing them to charge cell phones or GPS devices. Yan-Fei Liu, professor of electrical and computer engineering and co-author of the study, led the development of the device’s power electronics.
The team’s interdisciplinary approach included elements of gait biomechanics, physiology, human-machine interactions and design innovation. Much of this research was conducted at the Human Mobility Research Center, a Queen’s / Kingston Health Sciences Center facility with world-class gait analysis technology.