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#7 - Sustainable Health Systems

Energy-generating knee brace to power artificial hearts


A group of engineering students at Rice University has created a knee brace that generates electricity from walking and may someday help power artificial hearts.

The students have been working with the engineering company Cameron International that partnered with the Texas Heart Institute to develop artificial heart technology.

Their new device consists of a housed motor attached to the knee. As the joint bends, the motor turns much faster than the leg motion, generating power. This energy is then funneled through cables to a lithium-ion storage battery attached to the waist. But the energy may someday “go straight back into one’s body,” according to the researchers.

The brace produces 4 watts of energy as the wearer walks. The engineers pushed the technology forward, adding a power conversion and storage system that enables it to “convert the power into direct current and store that into something useful.”

Why choose the knee as opposed to a less obtrusive area like the ankle? Because, explain the students, the technology used with rotational energy produces a lot more power.

About the Author

Celia Sampol has been a journalist for more than 15 years. She worked in Brussels and Washington for national medias (Agence France Presse, Liberation, Europolitics). She's the editor-in-chief of NauticExpo e-magazine and MedicalExpo e-magazine.

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