National Science Foundation presents award for powered prosthesis development

The National Science Foundation awarded Xiangrong Shen, PhD, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Alabama college of Engineering, the CAREER Award to assist in his work on a powered prosthesis that mimics natural joints.

According to a press release, Shen’s robotic prostheses uses the compound monopropellant to power an artificial muscle, which replaces the motor used in current powered-prostheses and makes it lighter, more powerful and compact than current designs. Shen is also working on an electromyography (EMG) neural interface that uses existing muscles to move the prosthesis by reading the muscle-activating neural signal through electrodes placed on the surfaces of remaining muscles. To prevent falls, the development of a fault-tolerant control structure for the EMG controls will reconfigure the controller in the event of failure.

“This is a relatively new system,” Shen stated. “There are some problems in putting the prosthesis into clinical use because the components of the prosthesis are still being developed. In our research, the long-term goal is to develop powered prostheses with comparable appearance and functionality as human limbs.”

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