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

fixed to willing amputees. The improvement in motion over currently marketed prosthetic feet is such that "I am amazed by your invention," writes Russian amputee Sergei Burlakov to Mark Pitkin, a professor at Tufts University School of Medicine who invented the initial version of the foot being further developed by the weapons labs and Ohio Willow Wood.

Burlakov reportedly now can walk the entire day on the improved model without experiencing discomfort that formerly made him unable to wear a prosthesis for more than two or three hours. "At the institute where I have undergone my rehabilitation process, your Rolling Foot made a sensation," he wrote to Pitkin. And, in the unintentionally saddest of his sentences, "All of my friends and acquaintances there dream of having prostheses like these."

The current project will draw upon Sandia's electronic expertise and Russian materials knowledge to create, respectively, the brains and shape of the knee. "The work is a good fit with the capabilities of both labs," says Lieberman. "It involves stress analysis, mechanical testing, reliability testing, microprocessor control, and materials analysis."

It also helps out the prosthetics industry, which is dominated by small companies with relatively small technical support. While prosthetic companies certainly have worked to improve their devices, says Lieberman, they lack the resources to perform the type of testing possible at both nuclear laboratories. A knee must be able to vary the speed of its response. Then it needs to lock so that its wearer doesn't fall when standing. "The knee is not simply a hinge," says Lieberman. "If it were only that, it might swing back too far or not enough, letting the foot hit the ground too soon and causing its wearer to trip."


Contact: neal singer
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories

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