Feeds

Thigh-drive phone charger put through its paces

Let your legs help your fingers do the walking

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

North American boffins have produced a knee brace which can generate several watts of power as the wearer's leg flexes while walking. The inventors believe the device could be useful for powering medical equipment - and even mobile phones.

In a paper for the boffinry journal Science, the researchers reveal their device's test results. The knee generator works on the same principle as the regenerative brakes used in battery-driven cars. It can clutch in and out, so creating resistance only during selected periods of the leg's motion.

The leg-powered generator in testing

Still not enough power to get this treadmill moving.

If the gizmo engages itself only during the "braking" period, when the knee is bending to absorb the body's weight after a footfall - thus actually helping the leg somewhat with its task - it puts out an average of 5W when fitted to a man walking slowly.

This isn't enough for most applications, of course - it can't power lights, vehicles or heating. But it compares well with the output levels offered by portable batteries. The knee brace could power ten mobile phones, or charge them up. And unlike ordinary hand-cranked or pedal generators, it doesn't require any attention from the operator - though he or she does have to keep walking.

According to biomedics and engineering prof Arthur Kuo of the University of Michigan, one of the inventors, the leg generator doesn't require a significant level of effort from the user - though it's still too cumbersome.

"We've demonstrated proof of concept," Kuo said.

"The prototype device is bulky and heavy, and it does affect the wearer just to carry. But the energy generation part itself has very little effect on the wearer, whether it is turned on or not. We hope to improve the device so that it is easier to carry, and to retain the energy-harvesting capabilities."

Kuo sees systems of this sort being used by soldiers, to charge the increasing load of electronics they carry. The idea could also power implanted medical gear like pacemakers or neurotransmitters.

One likely consumer app might be for hikers or other outdoorsy types wishing to keep their gadgets charged up. (Trade names: Walkman, ThighPod, You'll-never-walk-alone-Phone. Etc.) But it's hard to imagine regenerative knee braces being a big hit among those with frequent access to grid power. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.