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Reducing the energy cost of human walking using an unpowered exoskeleton

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Nature

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      Biomechanics and Motor Control of Human Movement

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        Principles of Animal Locomotion

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          Biomechanical energy harvesting: generating electricity during walking with minimal user effort.

          We have developed a biomechanical energy harvester that generates electricity during human walking with little extra effort. Unlike conventional human-powered generators that use positive muscle work, our technology assists muscles in performing negative work, analogous to regenerative braking in hybrid cars, where energy normally dissipated during braking drives a generator instead. The energy harvester mounts at the knee and selectively engages power generation at the end of the swing phase, thus assisting deceleration of the joint. Test subjects walking with one device on each leg produced an average of 5 watts of electricity, which is about 10 times that of shoe-mounted devices. The cost of harvesting-the additional metabolic power required to produce 1 watt of electricity-is less than one-eighth of that for conventional human power generation. Producing substantial electricity with little extra effort makes this method well-suited for charging powered prosthetic limbs and other portable medical devices.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]Department of Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213, USA.
            [2 ]Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 911 Oval Drive, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA.
            Author notes
            Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to S.H.C. ( stevecollins@ 123456cmu.edu ) or G.S.S. ( greg_sawicki@ 123456ncsu.edu )
            [*]

            All authors contributed equally to this work.

            Journal
            0410462
            6011
            Nature
            Nature
            Nature
            0028-0836
            1476-4687
            13 February 2015
            01 April 2015
            11 June 2015
            11 December 2015
            : 522
            : 7555
            : 212-215
            25830889
            4481882
            10.1038/nature14288
            NIHMS662317

            Reprints and permissions information is available at www.nature.com/reprints.

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