Talk about adding insult to injury: according to the University of Michigan, the standard prosthetic foot device requires amputees to use 23% more energy in walking than those who are able to do so naturally. A team of researchers at the college has developed a new device aimed at decreasing the “energy penalty” for amputees with a prosthetic device that recycles the energy otherwise wasted between steps.
Engadget reports that the new prosthetic prototype works by harnessing the energy exerted when taking a step and using it to enhance the power of ankle push-off. An inbuilt micro-controller allows the prosthetic foot to return the energy to the system at precisely the right time, cutting the extra energy required for walking by nearly half.
“For amputees, what they experience when they’re trying to walk normally is what I would experience if I were carrying an extra 30 pounds,” said Art Kuo, professor in the University of Michigan departments of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. The new prosthetic foot prototype should be able to make that feel more like an 15 pounds–or, 14% more than walking naturally.