Here we show that novel, energy-recycling stairs reduce the amount of work required for humans to both ascend and descend stairs. Our low-power, interactive, and modular steps can be placed on existing staircases, storing energy during stair descent and returning that energy to the user during stair ascent. Energy is recycled through event-triggered latching and unlatching of passive springs without the use of powered actuators. When ascending the energy-recycling stairs, naive users generated 17.4 +/- 6.9% less positive work with their leading legs compared to conventional stairs, with the knee joint positive work reduced by 37.7 +/- 10.5%. Users also generated 21.9 +/- 17.8% less negative work with their trailing legs during stair descent, with ankle joint negative work reduced by 26.0 +/- 15.9%. Our low-power energy-recycling stairs have the potential to assist people with mobility impairments during stair negotiation on existing staircases.
Song, Y. S., Ha, S., Hsu, H., Ting, L. H., & Liu, C. K. (2017). Stair negotiation made easier using novel interactive energy-recycling assistive stairs. PLoS ONE, 12(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0179637