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ENERGY TECH
Students develop electricity-producing leg brace
by Brooks Hays
Houston (UPI) May 1, 2015


disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Phone need charging? Whose doesn't? With the energy-generating leg brace developed by researchers at Rice University, a power boost is only a walk around the block.

Engineering students at Rice have designed and built a leg brace with a power-producing motor attached a the joint. The movement of walking with the brace on spins the motor, and the generated power is funneled into a small battery.

The technology is part of an ongoing project by students coming in and out of Rice's engineering program. The ultimate goal isn't to charge smartphones, but to have the leg brace produce enough power to pump an artificial heart. The latest iteration of the brace produces 4 watts of energy -- not quite enough.

But the current crop of students are proud of their progress.

"We added a power conversion and storage system that was not present in the device at the beginning of this year," Hutson Chilton, a bioengineering major, said in a press release. "So we're getting about the same power output, but we're also able to convert it to direct current and store that into something useful."

Chilton was one of five students on the project. She was joined by electrical engineering major, Taylor Vaughn, as well as Adrian Bizzaro, Sean LaBaw and Chase Gensheimer, all mechanical engineering majors.

While the students weren't able to make the brace powerful enough to charge an artificial heart, they did shrink the size of the motor without sacrificing efficiency. The less cumbersome motor and more comfortable brace makes walking with the leg brace much easier.

"We didn't want somebody walking with a motor 6 inches off the knee and running into tables," LeBaw explained.

The team hopes that in the future, the technology can be used to wirelessly power medical devices.


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