Exoskeletons lose their steampunk look thanks to this new lightweight design

Exoskeletons show promise as an assistive device for those who face a temporary or permanent disability. Unfortunately, their utility is limited due to their bulkiness, which makes them cumbersome to wear. A team at Carnegie Mellon University may have a solution to this weighty problem — an exoskeleton that is lightweight, low power, and highly mobile.

The research into a cutting-edge exoskeleton was spearheaded by Steve Collins, associate professor of biomechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon, and Stuart Diller from Carnegie Mellon’s department of mechanical engineering. The pair created a lightweight component called an electro-adhesive clutch mechanism that forms part of an exoskeleton and weighs only 26 grams.

As its name implies, the electro-adhesive clutch is comprised of several thin electrode sheets that are coated with a dielectric material and held together by electrostatic adhesion. Each flat layer has a spring that allows it to stretch in response to the movement of a joint. These clutches can be aligned to other clutches in a parallel arrangement to form a strip that functions almost like a tendon. By varying the number of springed clutches, researchers can fine-tune the stiffness of the mechanical joint.

Not only is the clutch material lightweight and adjustable, it is also energy efficient. The research team tested the mechanism on an ankle exoskeleton and found that the clutched springs only engaged when the foot touched the ground. This “engage-on-demand” method of operation produced additional torque density and consumed less power than similar electrically controlled clutches. And at three times the torque density and half the power, these differences were certainly significant.

The researchers believe this breakthrough will kick off the development of future lightweight exoskeleton materials. They hope to use their low-power clutches in tandem as they develop new actuator designs for exoskeletons. They also anticipate a customizable option that allows researchers and physicians to develop exoskeletons that can be adjusted remotely. This feature would enable the manipulation of the stiffness of a joint using controls built into the system and made accessible online.

Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s friendly new A.I wants to figure out what you want — before you ask

Move over Siri and Alexa! Microsoft wants to build a new type of virtual assistant that wants to be your friend. Already making waves in Asia, could this be the future of A.I. BFFs?
Cars

Drool over Lamborghini’s latest dream machine: The one-off SC18

The Lamborghini SC18 was built by the automaker's Squadra Corse racing department at the request of a customer. Based on the Lamborghini Aventador, it features upgraded aerodynamic aids and reduced weight.
Digital Trends Live

DT Daily: Global internet, quantum computing prove the future is now

Global internet, quantum computing, and fire-resistant exoskeletons may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but as we learned on today's episode of DT Daily, all these things may soon be reality.
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.
Emerging Tech

Believe it or not, this fire-proof exoskeleton isn’t designed for space marines

A company called Levitate Technologies has developed a fire-resistant upper body exoskeleton that’s capable of lowering exertion levels by up to 80 percent when you carry out manual work.
Product Review

DJI has always been the king of drones, and the new Mavics are almost perfect

After flying both the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom for over a week, we’re convinced that these are two of the best drones that DJI has ever made.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Emerging Tech

Smarter cities need smarter addresses. And you just need 3 words

To make really smart transportation choices, more precise location data will have to be integrated with citywide transportation data. Here’s how one company is mapping the world by using just three words.
Emerging Tech

Ghostly galaxy discovered lurking on the edge of the Milky Way

A team of astronomers from the University of Cambridge have discovered a strange galaxy next door to the Milky Way. The dwarf galaxy, named Antlia 2, is dark and dim and gives out much less light than expected.
Emerging Tech

Ancient crater the size of NYC discovered under the Greenland ice sheet

A huge crater has been discovered beneath the ice of Greenland, and is thought to be the result of a meteorite impact millions of years ago. The crater is one of the largest ever discovered, measuring 19 miles across.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how the InSight mission to Mars will confirm its landing to NASA

NASA's InSight mission has sent a lander to Mars. NASA researchers have now shared details on how they will monitor the touching down of the lander at the end of its 91 million mile journey.
Emerging Tech

Would you swap your keycard for a microchip implant? For many, the answer is yes

Put down your keycard! More people are turning to implanted RFID chips as their choice of workplace identification. Should we be worried about a world in which employees get microchipped?
Outdoors

‘Super magnesium’ may be the next wonder material for outdoor gear

Super Magnesium is a wonder material that is 30 percent lighter than aluminum, as strong as carbon fiber, cheaper to make, and 100-percent recyclable, making it much better for the environment.