Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Why women wiggling in high heels could help improve prosthetic limbs and robots

09.05.2012
People walking normally, women tottering in high heels and ostriches strutting all exert the same forces on the ground despite very differently-shaped feet, according to research funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. The finding suggests that prosthetic lower limbs and robots' legs could be made more efficient by making them less human-like and more like the prosthetics used by 'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius.

Walking involves a repeated process referred to by scientists as 'crash, vault, push' – landing ('crashing') on the heel, vaulting over the stationary leg and then pushing off with the toes. This is the most economical way of walking and, as research published today in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface shows, the force exerted on the ground is the same for people walking normally or in high heels and for ostriches.

Dr Tatjana Hubel from the Royal Veterinary College explains: "Despite vastly differing arrangements of joints and hip wiggles, humans walking normally, women in extremely high heels and ostriches all produce strikingly similar forces when walking. This is the most mechanically economical way of walking. We do everything we can to make the forces follow the same pattern, which is why for example women wiggle their bottoms when they're in high heels. The question for us is, why is the human foot shaped the way that it is and not, say, like an ostrich's?"

When scientists model how the leg moves, they tend to simplify the movement and view the leg as a stick with a block on top (the body) which moves in an inverted pendulum motion. In this simplified model, the shape of the human foot does not make sense. But in fact, the human leg is more complicated than this; it contains muscles that likely evolved out of a tension between being optimised for walking and being more efficient at running. As humans are intelligent and able to plan and use tools, being able to move quickly to catch a prey or to evade a predator is not essential.

The shape of the human foot means that when the foot is flat on the ground, all the force goes through the ankles, allowing the muscles to support the weight of the body whilst being largely unloaded during the 'vault' stage. When muscles bear a load, they get tired easily, even if they are doing no work. For example, if we hold our arms outstretched, after a few minutes they will grow tired; by comparison, a JCB digger can extend its arm indefinitely.

The researchers believe this finding may have implications for the design of better prosthetic limbs for above-knee amputees and for the legs of humanoid robots. These might be improved by bearing more resemblance to an ostrich leg than that of a human.

Dr Jim Usherwood, a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at the Royal Veterinary College, explains: "If you want to make a good prosthetic foot but don't care what it looks like, you should put the motor – in this case, the ankle – as far up the leg as possible, where it can provide the power without making the feet heavy and hard to swing backwards and forwards. There's no point in putting the motor at the end of the foot, where it makes the leg more difficult to swing forwards – important in both walking and running.

"Some clever prosthetics copy the ankle and are very human-like, which is fine for prosthetics to replace the foot, but for above-knee amputee, a typical prosthetic leg which is very human-like is heavy and hard to move around. It's much better to have an ostrich foot at the end of a very lightweight leg.

An example of this kind of prosthetic already in use are the blades used by Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius – the 'Blade Runner'. These blades are light, springy and without a heel, similar to an ostrich's legs, which are optimised for running from predators rather than for walking.

Jen Middleton | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wellcome.ac.uk

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht Bergamotene - alluring and lethal for Manduca sexta
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

nachricht How to color a lizard: From biology to mathematics
13.04.2017 | Université de Genève

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

Im Focus: Optoelectronic Inline Measurement – Accurate to the Nanometer

Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.

New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation

22.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Plant inspiration could lead to flexible electronics

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

A rhodium-based catalyst for making organosilicon using less precious metal

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>