Biomechatronics | Exoskeletons for Running and Hopping Augmentation
Massachusetts institute of technology, MIT, MIT Media Lab, robotics, prosthetics, prostheses, exoskeletons, orthoses, orthosis, science, engineering, biomechanics, mechatronics,
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Exoskeletons for Running and Hopping Augmentation

About

The Biomechatronics Group seeks to use exoskeletons to decrease the metabolic burden associated with running, thereby increasing endurance and achievable distance.

 

The biomechanics and energetics of human running using an elastic knee exoskeleton

While the effects of series compliance on running biomechanics are well documented, the effects of parallel compliance are known only for the simpler case of hopping. As many practical exoskeletal and orthotic designs act in parallel with the leg, it is desirable to understand the effects of such an intervention. Spring-like forces offer a natural choice of perturbation for running, as they are both biologically motivated and energetically inexpensive to implement. To this end, we investigate the hypothesis that the addition of an external elastic element at the knee during the stance phase of running results in a reduction in knee extensor activation so that total joint quasi- stiffness is maintained. An exoskeletal knee brace consisting of an elastic element engaged by a clutch is used to provide this stance phase extensor torque. Motion capture of five subjects is used to investigate the consequences of running with this device. No significant change in leg stiffness or total knee stiffness is observed due to the activation of the clutched parallel knee spring. However, this pilot data suggests differing responses between casual runners and competitive long-distance runners, whose total knee torque is increased by the device. Such a relationship between past training and effective utilization of an external force is suggestive of limitations on the applicability of assistive devices

G. Elliott, G.S. Sawicki, A. Marecki, and H. Herr.
The biomechanics and energetics of human running using an elastic knee exoskeleton,
IEEE ICORR, 2013.

 

Leg exoskeleton reduces the metabolic cost of human hopping

During bouncing gaits such as hopping and running, leg muscles generate force to enable elastic energy storage and return primarily from tendons and, thus, demand metabolic energy. In an effort to reduce metabolic demand, we designed two elastic leg exoskeletons that act in parallel with the wearer’s legs; one exoskeleton consisted of a multiple leaf (MLE) and the other of a single leaf (SLE) set of fiberglass springs. We hypothesized that hoppers, hopping on both legs, would adjust their leg stiffness while wearing an exoskeleton so that the combination of the hopper and exoskeleton would behave as a linear spring-mass system with the same total stiffness as during normal hopping. We also hypothesized that decreased leg force generation while wearing an exoskeleton would reduce the metabolic power required for hopping. Nine subjects hopped in place at 2.0, 2.2, 2.4, and 2.6 Hz with and without an exoskeleton while we measured ground reaction forces, exoskeletal compression, and metabolic rates. While wearing an exoskeleton, hoppers adjusted their leg stiffness to maintain linear spring-mass mechanics and a total stiffness similar to normal hopping. Without accounting for the added weight of each exoskeleton, wearing the MLE reduced net metabolic power by an average of 6% and wearing the SLE reduced net metabolic power by an average of 24% compared with hopping normally at frequencies between 2.0 and 2.6 Hz. Thus, when hoppers used external parallel springs, they likely decreased the mechanical work performed by the legs and substantially reduced metabolic demand compared with hopping without wearing an e

A. M. Grabowski and H. M. Herr.
Leg exoskeleton reduces the metabolic cost of human hopping,
Journal of Applied Physiology, vol. 107, no. 3, pp. 670-678, 2009.