Design and Evaluation of a Biomimetic Agonist-Antagonist Active Knee Prosthesis

Martinez-Villalpando, E. "Design and Evaluation of a Biomimetic Agonist-Antagonist Active Knee Prosthesis"


The loss of a limb is extremely debilitating. Unfortunately, today's assistive technologies are still far from providing fully functional artificial limb replacements. Although lower extremity prostheses are currently better able to give assistance than their upper-extremity counterparts, important locomotion problems still remain for leg amputees. Instability, gait asymmetry, decreased walking speeds and high metabolic energy costs are some of the main challenges requiring the development of a new kind of prosthetic device. These challenges point to the need for highly versatile, fully integrated lower-extremity powered prostheses that can replicate the biological behavior of the intact human leg.

This thesis presents the design and evaluation of a novel biomimetic active knee prosthesis capable of emulating intact knee biomechanics during level-ground walking. The knee design is motivated by a mono-articular prosthetic knee model comprised of a variable damper and two series- elastic clutch units spanning the knee joint. The powered knee system is comprised of two series-elastic actuators positioned in parallel in an agonist-antagonist configuration. This investigation hypothesizes that the biomimetic active-knee prosthesis, with a variable impedance control, can improve unilateral transfemoral amputee locomotion in level-ground walking, reducing the metabolic cost of walking at self- selected speeds.

To evaluate this hypothesis, a preliminary study investigated the clinical impact of the active knee prosthesis on the metabolic cost of walking of four unilateral above-knee amputees. This preliminary study compared the antagonistic active knee prosthesis with subjects' prescribed knee prostheses. The subjects' prescribed prostheses encompass four of the leading prosthetic knee technologies commercially available, including passive and electronically controlled variable-damping prosthetic systems. Use of the novel biomimetic active knee prosthesis resulted in a metabolic cost reduction for all four subjects by an average of 5.8%. Kinematic and kinetic analyses indicate that the active knee can increase self-selected walking speed in addition to reducing upper body vertical displacement during walking by an average of 16%. The results of this investigation report for the first time a metabolic cost reduction when walking with a prosthetic system comprised of an electrically powered active knee and passive foot-ankle prostheses, as compared to walking with a conventional transfemoral prosthesis.

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