A new design of assistive steps for the elderly and disabled are also energy-recycling, but maybe not in the way you might think. Not only do the levels absorb energy to make the descent easier, but they also save it to make the ascent that much more comfortable. They offer the stored energy back with a little assist in every step back upward.
New Assistive Steps Have Latching Metal Springs and Save Energy Too
The Missouri University of Science and Technology developed the new stair design with a team led by Yun Seong. They have built a set of stairs that use a system of latching metal springs that stretch with each step downwards until they latch in place. The steps also have magnetic locks and sensors that measure pressure.
As the walker descends the stairs, the steps lower with their weight, basically storing energy from gravity. The sensor then recognizes this, and it locks the stair in place, storing the energy in the stretched spring. When ascending, the electromagnetic locks release as the next step up is touched, freeing the springs and causing them to lift the rear step back to the upper position.
With the testing conducted by Seong and the rest of the team, they found that ascending the stairs would take 17 percent less energy. They also found that descending would take 22 percent less. Those numbers are significant in aiding both seniors and those with leg injuries.
“Current solutions for people who need help aren’t very affordable. Elevators and stair-lifts are often impractical to install at home,” claimed one of the study’s co-authors, Karen Liu. “Low-cost, easily installed assistive steps could be a way to allow people to retain their ability to use stairs and not move out of their homes.”
Energy-recycling steps may well be a future solution that is much more affordable and an easier solution than lift chairs or elevators. Current study results are available in the PLOS One.
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