In this paper, I will be discussing the Bionic Leg and its development. The first thing to keep in mind when talking about “bionic” is that even though people related it to prosthetics, they are very different. According to Assistive Technology News, the term bionic means the technique of replacing a body part by an artificial part that is electronically or mechanically powered; on the other hand, prosthetics is just an implant that replaces a body part. A bionic leg is a leg with an electric ankle that is able to adapt to any situation, from running to going up and downstairs.
The bionic leg is a device that has been tried to develop for years in different parts of the world by different scientists. A diversity type of bionic leg has been created; some are to help walk with the existing leg, while others are in the form of prostheses that replace the leg. However, although we hear about the existence of these devices, they are very uncommon to see around since their approval for medical use may take years or even decades.
As everything in life is in need to start from the bottom, before the invention of the bionic leg, was first created the prosthesis. We believe that the first prosthesis was created in 1846 by Benjamin Franklin Palmer in New Hampshire. There is not much detail about this invention. According to America’s library, Palmer used springs and metal tendons that act like joints in the artificial legs; this is what allowed the flexibility.
In 1851 Palmer’s artificial leg received the award World’s Fair in London England.
As the years went by, the leg prostheses were modernized until they reached the most recent invention, the bionic leg. Although different scientists in all parts of the world have tried to make such a device, the creation of the bionic leg is attributed to Professor Hugh Herr. When Hugh Herr was 17 years old, he was already considered one of the best climbers in the United States. He was born in 1964 in a family of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Herr seemed to have been born for rock climbing. However, in January 1982, while climbing the Huntington Ravine on Mount Washington, Herr was hit by a strong wind and was forced to descend to a glacier where he stayed three days at temperatures of almost -30C. Herr was finally rescued, but the severe freezing of his limbs forced the surgeons to amputate his legs below the knees.
After graduating in Physics from the University of Millersville, mechanical engineering at MIT, and a doctorate in biomechanics from Harvard University, Herr designed his own prosthetic legs, which allowed him not only to climb again but to do better than never. These prosthetic legs, called BiOM, are made of silicon, titanium, aluminum, and carbon. They work with a gas propulsion engine that acts as a human ankle. The user’s brain sends electrical impulses to all parts of our body and thus makes our muscles move at will, but the BiOM is able to receive these impulses and translate them just as our muscles do.
Unlike other models, BiOMs has 12 sensors and 3 microprocessors that can analyze the level of requirement of the context, adjusting to it. To achieve this, an exhaustive study of the functioning of human muscles was carried out, which distributed the energy depending on the effort required to move. Prostheses do not produce posture or balance problems.
These prostheses, then, distribute the weight and respond intelligently to the environment, and thus their users can walk, run, jump, and climb as if they used their real legs. In addition, the BiOM have their own rechargeable batteries, which give a range of about six hours (or about 3,000 steps).
Finally, the user does not need to drag these legs to walk, since they are light and save 23% of energy. What distinguishes this prosthesis from others, then, is that it perfectly replicates the flexibility and action of a real leg, with its ankle, heel, and tendons, as if it had bones, skin, and even real muscle. Aesthetically, the legs do not seem human, but cyborg legs that vaguely resemble those used by the villain martial arts expert Kingsman movie. But for Herr aesthetics was not the priority, but the prosthetic legs worked optimally. And he has achieved it to the point that they manage to make a dancer able to return to dance after losing one of her extremities in a terrorist attack. The next step in the BiOM will be that the prosthesis will be integrated into the human body: thus, sensors and processors will be dispensed with, with the human brain really controlling the operation of the device.
Thanks to its specialization in a relatively new field of engineering, which makes use of principles in biomechanics and neural control, its rehabilitation and improvement of motor skills devices will improve the lives of people with disabilities, and also, You can improve the capabilities of healthy people. Herr’s research is receiving continuous recognition and awards. Because, in addition to designing prosthetic legs (including his own), he has also developed feet, ankles, knees, and hips that push the limits of human capabilities, such as Rheo Knee, a computer-controlled artificial knee. Many of its findings manage to give greater flexibility or rigidity to the materials used (which is related to the concept of robots or soft exoskeletons).
For Herr, its developments can be the basis for the future design of skeletons so that all human beings with disabilities can use them, which will also allow people without disabilities to conserve their bodies longer. For example, these patterns would be like clothes that fit the body of each person and adopt a sudden stiffness when the user had to carry some weight, which would protect the spine from injuries. The evolution of the prosthesis is being faster now than ever before in history, and also the cheapening of the components will make them more and more economically affordable. From the first functional prosthesis of which one has evidence, a bronze leg destroyed during a bombing in World War II that dates from 300 a.C. (or the articulated foot that investigators of the University of Manchester try to demonstrate that it dates from the 1000 a.C), the progress in this field has accelerated in the last decade. Thanks, in large part, to Herr’s contribution.
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