Self-energizing Prosthetic Damper
An increasing number of lower-limb prosthetic devices utilize onboard electronics in order to promote more natural looking and efficient walking characteristics for individuals with lower-limb amputations. Microprocessor-controlled knee prostheses utilize feedback control to better adapt to changes in gait, and continually adjust the level of damping at the knee joint. A number of these prosthetic devices are available commercially, utilizing various types of dampers that use hydraulic, pneumatic or magnetorheological fluids.
However, there are several inherent drawbacks in these devices; namely, they tend to be larger and heavier and more costly to supply and operate. Furthermore, these devices require the daily charging of on-board batteries, which is inconvenient and occasionally impractical. Therefore a lighter-weight, lower cost, adaptive and self-energizing prosthetic mechanism is desirable.
In this regard, we have recently demonstrated the feasibility of a novel approach for real-time adaptable knee damping that also facilitates the utilization of physiologically generated energy to power on-board electronics.
This technology has the beneficial potential to reduce the need for stored energy in large and heavy battery packs, and/or the maintenance associated with daily charging of batteries. Moreover, this new approach eliminates the need for a fluid-based system, and therefore should result in a simpler, less costly, more easily maintainable device.
The primary populations of concern include active adolescents and adults with above-knee amputations. There are 300,000 individuals with lower-limb amputations in North America alone. Microprocessor-based prostheses, which range in cost from $20K to $50K, are prescribed to a subset of this population, primarily younger and more active individuals.
A provisional patent has been filed (US 60/ 844,669) for the self-energizing damper.
Companies targeted in this market sector include Otto Bock, Össur, and Fillauer. All of these companies have a strong North American and international presence. Currently, we have ongoing collaborations with two of these companies, and licensing agreements for a number of prosthetic and orthotic products that we have recently developed. With respect to commercialization, it is our intent to license exclusively or non-exclusively the technology to these market players.