Autonomous exoskeleton reduces metabolic cost of walking

L. M. Mooney, E. J. Rouse and H. M. Herr. Autonomous exoskeleton reduces metabolic cost of walking, International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, August. 2014.


We developed an autonomous powered leg exoskeleton capable of providing large amounts of positive mechanical power to the wearer during powered plantarflexion phase of walking. The autonomous exoskeleton consisted of a winch actuator fasted to the shin which pulled on fiberglass struts attached to a boot. The fiberglass struts formed a rigid extension of the foot when the proximal end of the strut was pulled in forward by the winch actuator. This lightweight, geometric transmission allowed the electric winch actuator to efficiently produce biological levels of power at the ankle joint. The exoskeleton was powered and controlled by lithium polymer batteries and motor controller worn around the waist. Preliminary testing on two subjects walking at 1.4 m/s resulted in the exoskeleton reducing the metabolic cost of walking by 6- 11% as compared to not wearing the device. The exoskeleton provided a peak mechanical power of over 180 W at each ankle (mean standard ± deviation) and an average positive mechanical power of 27 ± 1 W total to both ankles, while electrically using 75-89 W of electricity. The batteries (800 g) used in this experiment are estimated to be capable of providing this level of assistance for up to 7 km of walking.

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