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A new twist on power walking

WOODS HOLE, MA - In an unprecedented breakthrough in the development of portable and renewable human-driven energy sources, an MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory) biomechanics expert who studies how muscle moves skeletons in fish and frogs has invented a backpack that gives new meaning to the term power walking.

In a paper published in the September 9 issue of Science, Lawrence C. Rome, a University of Pennsylvania biology professor who spends his summers conducting research at the MBL, and three colleagues describe the mechanics of, and physics behind, the Suspended-load Backpack, a piece of gear that will one day enable field scientists, hikers, explorers, soldiers, and disaster workers to convert mechanical energy generated by walking with a heavy load on their backs into electricity.

By carrying a load weighing from 44 to 84 pounds (20 to 38 kg), Suspended-load Backpack testers were able to generate up to 7.4 Watts--more than enough electricity to simultaneously power an MP3 player, a PDA, night vision goggles (or 3 LED headlamp), a handheld GPS, a CMOS image decoder, a GSM terminal in talk mode, and Bluetooth. The electricity can be used while it is being generated, or it can be stored in a lightweight rechargeable battery for later use, greatly reducing the need to haul and use heavy replacement batteries.

"The need for electronic devices in remote areas is an increasing reality these days," says Rome. "Throughout history, humans have solved many problems by inventing passive devices to enhance the movements made by their muscles, such as springy bamboo poles to carry loads and skis to move through snow," he says. "The Suspended-load Backpack represents another passive device that may help solve a growing problem in the 21st century."

The backpack, which is currently in its working prototype stage, is based on the external frame design once popular with overnight backpackers. It works by capitalizing on the up-and-down motion of
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Contact: Gina Hebert
ghebert@mbl.edu
508-289-7725
Marine Biological Laboratory
8-Sep-2005


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