The "sleeve muscle" is more powerful, lighter and more compact than other prosthetic actuators.
Just wait until Paralympian Oscar Pistorius gets his hands on this: A team of mechanical engineers has created an prosthetic leg that is powered by a special type of liquid fuel called a monopropellant -- the same kind of fuel that gives rockets their thrust. The new device could usher in the next generation of prosthetics -- powerful and lightweight artificial limbs that will look and function more like the real thing.
Somewhat surprisingly, the human ankle supplies more energy to the process of walking than both the hip and the knee. Yet most standard below-knee artificial limbs do not produce sufficient power to support an amputee's walk. And indeed, today's devices only dissipate energy, or store and reuse energy in walking. This means that amputees have to put greater stress on their joints and expend more energy when they try to walk or run.
Looking to change this, UoA's Xiangrong Shen, along with researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, has developed a prosthetic limb that uses monopropellant -- an energy-storing medium that decomposes upon contact with certain catalysts (monopropellants don't need to be mixed with other gases to be used as fuel). The resulting energy allows for the powering of a lightweight artificial leg that can be used on a regular basis.