Biomechatronics | Transfemoral Powered Prostheses
Massachusetts institute of technology, MIT, MIT Media Lab, robotics, prosthetics, prostheses, exoskeletons, orthoses, orthosis, science, engineering, biomechanics, mechatronics,

Transfemoral Powered Prostheses


Powered transfemoral prostheses have the ability to ameliorate the substantial energetic cost difference between amputees and non-amputees during walking. To this end, we are currently developing such technologies.


Agonist-antagonist active knee prosthesis: a preliminary study in level-ground walking.

We present a powered knee prosthesis with two series-elastic actuators positioned in parallel in an agonist-antagonist arrangement. To motivate the knee’s design, we developed a prosthetic knee model that comprises a variable damper and two series-elastic clutch units that span the knee joint. Using human gait data to constrain the model’s joint to move biologically, we varied model parameters using an optimization scheme that minimized the sum over time of the squared difference between the model’s joint torque and biological knee values. We then used these optimized values to specify the mechanical and control design of the prosthesis for level-ground walking. We hypothesized that a variable-impedance control design could produce humanlike knee mechanics during steady-state level-ground walking. As a preliminary evaluation of this hypothesis, we compared the prosthetic knee mechanics of an amputee walking at a self-selected gait speed with those of a weight- and height-matched nonamputee. We found qualitative agreement between prosthetic and human knee mechanics. Because the knee’s motors never perform positive work on the knee joint throughout the level-ground gait cycle, the knee’s electrical power requirement is modest in walking (8 W), decreasing the size of the onboard battery required to power the prosthesis.

E. C. Martinez-Villalpando and H. M. Herr.
Agonist-antagonist active knee prosthesis: A preliminary study in level-ground walking,
JRRD, 2009.


A clutchable series-elastic actuator: design of a robotic knee prosthesis for minimum energy consumption

The cyclic and often linear torque-angle relationship of locomotion presents the opportunity to innovate on the design of traditional series-elastic actuators (SEAs). In this paper, a novel modification to the SEA architecture was proposed by adding a clutch in parallel with the motor within the SEA—denoted as a CSEA. This addition permits bimodal dynamics where the system is characterized by an SEA when the clutch is disengaged and a passive spring when the clutch is engaged. The purpose of the parallel clutch was to provide the ability to store energy in a tuned series spring, while requiring only reactionary torque from the clutch. Thus, when the clutch is engaged, a tuned elastic relationship can be achieved with minimal electrical energy consumption. The state-based model of the CSEA is introduced and the implementation of the CSEA mechanism in a powered knee prosthesis is detailed. The series elasticity was optimized to fit the spring-like torque-angle relationship of early stance phase knee flexion and extension during level ground walking. In simulation, the CSEA knee required 70% less electrical energy than a traditional SEA. Future work will focus on the mechanical implementation of the CSEA knee and an empirical demonstration of reduced electrical energy consumption during walking.

E. J. Rouse, L. M. Mooney, E. C. Martinez-Villalpando, and H. M. Herr
A clutchable series-elastic actuator: design of a robotic knee prosthesis for minimum energy consumption