These assistive stairs may no longer leave one panting and weak but instead improve the experience through absorbing and returning one’s own energy.
Researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University claimed that they developed stairs that recycle energy, potentially helping the elderly and disabled individuals who have difficulty negotiating stairs.
"Current solutions for people who need help aren't very affordable. Elevators and stair-lifts are often impractical to install at home," said study author Karen Liu in a statement. "Low-cost, easily-installed assistive stairs could be a way to allow people to retain their ability to use stairs and not move out of their homes."
Here’s how the new stairs work: they use latched spring for storing energy when someone descends on them. The energy is afterward released when a person climbs again.
This technology slashes the force on one’s ankle by 26 percent, the researchers added.
When the user ascends the same high-tech stairs, the energy is released and makes the stairs slightly spring up. Ascending it would then be about 37 percent easier on one’s knees than normal.
Inspiration, Prospects For Assistive Stairs
“I thought it would be great if we could store the energy wasted during descent and return it to the user during ascent,” shared Liu, who got the idea for the project when she saw her 72-year-old mother’s own struggle in climbing stairs.
The team tested the device by analyzing energy use patterns as nine subjects went up and down the stairs.
A further probe is necessary, but the hope is for the energy-recycling stairs to turn into a more affordable solution than escalators or elevators in the future. This could be particularly helpful for special groups.
"Stair negotiation is ranked among the top 5 most difficult tasks in community-residing older adults,” wrote the researchers.
The findings were detailed July 12 in the journal PLOS ONE.
These assistive stairs are not the only technology designed for helping improve people’s mobility. Back in June, for instance, researchers developed an exoskeleton and prosthetic limb design allowing the wearer to enhance walking efficiency by about 24.2 percent. A separate exoskeleton has also been created to detect falls as it uses a special algorithm.
A separate study, on the other hand, hailed brief but intense stair-climbing as a good fitness-improving activity. A team of researchers out of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, found that stair-climbing is a convenient, easy way to fit exercise into one’s life, especially with a tight schedule.