Self-Powered Prosthetic Devices

Through research funded by the US Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) and the National Science Foundation, KCF is striving to improve the lives of amputees through its research into energy harvesting, self-powered prosthetic devices and the innovative Kinetic Revolutions Adjustable Pylon for use with leg prostheses. By scavenging and converting to productive use the ordinary energy used in walking, these electro-mechanical devices make life better for amputees of every age and walk of life, including our nation’s wounded warriors. Click on a heading below to read selected abstracts of our self-powered prosthetic devices and electro-mechanical devices focused research programs.

KCF Technologies developed an adjustable pylon to be utilized in lower-limb prosthetics. The adjustable pylon significantly reduces the time and costs associated with fitting traditional pylons by eliminating the need to physically cut the pylon material to the correct length, sand and buff the rough cuts, and re-attach the prosthetic to the foot and leg. The adjustable pylon allows for height and rotation adjustments of the limb without the need to remove the socket or foot. The greater adjustability and precision offered by this product benefits both the prosthetic providers and their patients.

The adjustable pylon was developed as an offshoot of prosthetics research carried out for the US Army and is being brought to market by KCF's partner Kinetic Revolutions. KCF Technologies designed and tested the pylon and is currently manufacturing the units for sale. Kinetic Revolutions markets the Kinetic Revolutions Adjustable Pylon through medical device distributors who supply practitioners across the country that provide care to amputees.

Every year tens of thousands of Americans lose limbs either surgically as a result of diabetes or bone cancer, or violently during a battle, traffic accident or an encounter with a land mine. For injuries that result with a leg missing above the knee, a transfemoral prosthesis can be fitted to restore mobility to the amputee. KCF Technologies is developing a commercially viable energy scavenging device for lower limb prosthetics. The device is integrated into the lower pylon (shin) of the prosthetic leg. The energy harvester captures and stores energy during normal activities such as walking and running. This captured energy is regulated and stored to automatically recharge the batteries of the prosthetic. This energy greatly extends the operational time of a battery charge, or eliminates the need for battery charge altogether.

Funding source: US Army Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC)

As portable wireless electronics and wireless sensors become ubiquitous, their power sources (batteries) continue to be the limiting factor in their dependability. The ability to harvest enough energy from the motion of a typical portable device such as a prosthetic limb to power it has been elusive. KCF Technologies has integrated an electro-active polymer energy harvester into prosthetic devices by harvesting the energy from walking motion to power the onboard electronics. This device addresses three aspects of energy harvesting that traditionally cause inefficiencies: mechanical impedance mismatch, electrical impedance mismatch, and inefficient electromechanical conversion material properties.

Funding source: National Science Foundation SBIR 2010

Today’s advanced prosthetic limbs are operated with a microprocessor-controlled knee. KCF Technologies has developed an energy-scavenging ankle component for the prosthetic that will self-charge the microprocessor’s batteries during walking, and thereby increase realization of the advantages of an advanced microprocessor-controlled lower-limb prosthetic. This technology is an attractive next-generation application for the energy-scavenging technology because of the need for self-charging batteries and the availability of spare energy from walking, running, and other human motion. The power harvesting device is designed to replace stiffness in the ankle, so there is no noticeable effect on the apparent stiffness, damping, or other dynamic behavior of the ankle or knee.

Funding source: US Army SBIR A06-T031

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