This research project is funded by Care for Quality of Life Foundation.
A spinal cord injury is an uncommon but serious condition. In addition to paralysis symptoms, people with a spinal cord injury have many additional health problems, such as pain, spasticity and sore spots. A spinal cord injury therefore causes significant obstacles to social participation and a lower quality of life. In addition, wheelchair users with a spinal cord injury are physically inactive, which leads to new health problems, such as sore spots and cardiovascular disease. Regular exercise is therefore very important to stay in good health. Walking in an exoskeleton even offers health benefits, including reduced spasticity and improved intestinal function. People also find standing interaction valuable and experience an improved quality of life. To maintain these benefits, regular use of an exoskeleton is necessary.
However, the commercially available motorized exoskeletons are difficult to handle, heavy and have little added value in daily life. In addition, they are very expensive. This makes walking exercise only accessible to a small group of people. In this project we are developing a safe, user-friendly, lightweight and affordable exoskeleton, with which we can make walking possible for a much larger proportion of people with leg problems. Characteristic of this exoskeleton is that the user can drive it efficiently with his own body force from the upper body. The first developed prototype contains hinged hips that are connected to each other via a flexible coupling. Movement of the upper body allows the user to move one leg forward. Energy is stored in the elastic element with each step, which is released again in the next step.
Nianlei Zhang is currently working on this project as his Ph.D. research. Are you interested?