Prosthetic limb to be controlled by microchip: Agreement signed to create smart leg

Albuquerque, N.M. "Smart" legs entire smart lower limbs to replace those amputated from tens of thousands of Americans yearly as a result of auto accidents, diabetes, or other causes are expected to be on the market in two years.

Sensors and chips will be developed by the Department of Energys Sandia National Laboratories. Materials work and testing will be performed by, strangely, the Russian nuclear weapons laboratory Chelyabinsk 70. Technical requirements for the limb will be set by the Seattle Orthopedic Group (SOGI).

"This is about making a leg that is more like a missing limb than a collection of components ever can be," says Diane Hurtado of the Smart Integrated Lower Limb (SILL) project team. "This limb will have a digital control system to make it smart." Says Ivan Sabel, president of Hangar, of which SOGI is a division, "This is taking us an industry that has gone in 30 years from plastic to carbon fibers to the next generation."

The advance should enable otherwise competent amputees to maintain active lives rather than be confined to wheelchairs or rest homes.

The leg is intended to simulate a human gait whether on uphill, downhill, or even irregular terrain. To do so, a microprocessor-controlled module implanted in the leg will respond to sensor input from multiple sources. The microprocessor will control hydraulic joints and piezoelectric motors that power the ankle, knee and socket. The leg socket will also adjust to the changing diameter of an amputated stump over the course of a day, thus reducing sores, improving comfort, and increasing time of use.

Clamoring to walk without falling down

"What amputees are clamoring for is a way to walk without falling down, independent of terrain," says Sandia researcher Dave Kozlowski, who has designed robotic architectures for surgical operating rooms. "The majority of lower-limb prosthetic devices are based upon passive technologies that

Contact: nsinger
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories

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