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News Release - Exoskeleton designed by Queen's researchers that improves walking efficiency is the subject of a new study featured in the leading academic journal Science

Thursday, May 27, 2021

For immediate release

May 27, 2021 - The science of walking is taking its next big step with the aid of a unique exoskeleton that allows users to walk further while using less energy. Developed by a multidisciplinary team from the Queen's Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, the backpack-mounted prototype removes energy during a specific phase of the gait cycle, lessening the metabolic cost of walking. Details of the device's development and evaluation were published today in Science—one of the world's foremost academic journals.

Unlike existing exoskeleton technologies that either add energy or transfer it from one phase of the gait cycle to another, this new device assists users by removing energy which helps the knee muscles during a critical moment—called the terminal swing phase.

The team envisages the technology—which weighs just over half a kilogram—enabling hikers to walk longer distances or helping nurses be less tired after a long shift on their feet.

In addition to assisting the user, the device converts the removed energy into electricity that can be used to power the device's control system and other portable devices. This energy harvesting capability could be particularly useful for individuals travelling on foot in remote locations, allowing them to charge cellular phones or GPS devices. Yan-Fei Liu, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and co-author of the study, led the development of the device's power electronics.

The team's interdisciplinary approach included elements of walking biomechanics, physiology, human-machine interactions, and design innovation. Much of this research was conducted in the Human Mobility Research Centre, a Queen's/Kingston Health Sciences Centre facility equipped with world-class gait analysis technology.

To learn more about the exoskeleton project, visit Science.
 

Quotes

“Removing energy from a person's legs during walking may sound counterintuitive, like applying the brake in a moving car but our muscles naturally remove energy while we walk, and our device helps them to do so.”

“For the first time, we have demonstrated that removing energy can increase walking efficiency. This is a significant advancement in the field of exoskeleton development, and one with the potential to change the way that we approach gait assistance.”

(Michael Shepertycky, recent Queen’s University PhD graduate and lead author of the study)
 

“Improving walking and running economy has been an important topic of research for the past two decades, due to its scientific and practical implications. Walking is a delicate and highly optimized process, which makes it difficult to use exoskeletons to improve walking efficiency.”

(Dr. Qingguo Li, co-senior author of the study and Associate Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Queen’s University)
 

Links

Available b-roll:

https://cloudfiles.engineering.queensu.ca/ui/core/index.html?mode=public#expl-tabl./SHARED/mdas/ZYevklgB7EtqYicc/B-Roll

Available images:

https://cloudfiles.engineering.queensu.ca/ui/core/index.html?mode=public#expl-tabl./SHARED/mdas/ZYevklgB7EtqYicc/Photos

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For more information, please contact:

Julie Brown
Media Relations Officer
Queen’s University
julie.brown@queensu.ca
343-363-2763

 

About Queen’s University

Queen’s University has a long history of scholarship, discovery, and innovation that has shaped our collective knowledge and helped address some of the world’s most pressing concerns. Home to more than 25,000 students, the university offers a comprehensive research-intensive environment with prominent strengths in physics, cancer research, geoengineering, data analytics, surveillance studies, art conservation, and mental health research. Welcoming and supporting students from all countries and backgrounds to a vibrant, safe, and supportive community is an important part of the Queen’s experience. Diverse perspectives and a wealth of experience enrich our campus and our community. A core part of our mission is to engage our students, staff, and faculty in international learning and research, both at home and abroad.

Queen’s University is ranked first in Canada and fifth in the world in the 2021 Time Higher Education Impact Rankings. The rankings measured over 1,200 post-secondary institutions on their work to advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

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