Energy-Recycling Stairs

Apparently walking down stairs requires more energy than climbing them up, because legs use a lot of energy to avoid falling too quickly. The device developed by researchers at Georgia Tech and Emory University stores this energy rather than wasting it and then returns it to the user during ascent.

In comparison to walking on the ground, using stairs is thrice more demanding on the knees. It is even more difficult on people suffering from joint pain, reduced sensorimotor control, muscle weakness and elderly people. The smart stairs will lessen the pressure put on the knees, due to the built-in springs and pressure sensors.

Despite the fact that stair lifts and elevators are serving the old and disabled people to overcome flights of stairs, these are costly and usually request house remodeling to install. They are also energy-consumers, using as much as 12,000 kilowatt-hours each year. Moreover, relying on elevators and stair lifts can result in further degeneration in mobility. Building the smart stairs will improve the quality of life and will be less expensive and energy-efficient.

Initially, the concept of the project was to create a pair of energy-recycling prosthetic shoes that would aid people climb stairs more comfortably. However, the researchers grasped the fact that going upstairs is much easier then descending them, because a lot of energy is used to stop a fall. So, the team decided to create a set of stairs that preserves the user’s energy and use it to lessen the burden when climbing.

The springs located in each step compress when somebody goes downstairs, allowing the step to sink slowly until it reaches the next step’s level and preserving by 26% of the energy depleted at the ankles. The steps will remain this way until somebody goes upstairs. When climbing the stairs, the device will discharge the stored energy and will make it easier on the knee by 37%, propelling the body forward. Each step is also equipped with pressure sensors. The device does not have to be permanently installed.