"All my friends dream of artificial limbs": US, Russian nuclear labs work with prosthetics company to develop replacement knee

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A letter expressing "deepest gratitude" from a Russian landmine victim fitted with a newly developed artificial foot demonstrates one reason for the initiation of a second prosthetics project between the Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories and the Ohio Willow Wood Company. This one, to develop an advanced artificial knee, is supported by a $1.4 million cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) from the DOE's Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention Program. The agreement was signed on July 28.

In a unique arrangement, technologies for foot and knee prostheses are being jointly developed by two nuclear weapons laboratories on opposite sides during the Cold War, Sandia and the Russian laboratory known as Chelyabinsk-70, in Snezhinsk, about 900 miles southeast of Moscow.

Ohio Willow Wood, located in Mount Sterling, near Columbus, will define the requirements for parts and perform final laboratory and clinical testing. The Russians will design a titanium housing, and Sandia robotics researchers Mark Vaughn and Dave Kozlowski will design the knee's internal workings and electronics. Sandia and the Russian nuclear lab will split their half of the funding.

"This work will have many benefits," says Sandia chemist and project leader Mort Lieberman, who will also manage the Russian connection. "Someone in this world loses a limb to a landmine explosion every 20 minutes. Our work, though only remedial, will help landmine survivors and other amputees."

The work also provides employment on areas of civilian need for Russian nuclear scientists who might otherwise be tempted to sell their expertise to countries the United States would prefer not have it. In an odd twist, "We will have created the world's biggest research center for lower-limb prosthesis in a Russian laboratory," says Lieberman.

The first collaboration, on an artificial foot, has reached the stage where the devices have been experimentally af

Contact: neal singer
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories

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