Exosuit Fits Like a Pair of Shorts
A research team has designed a new portable exosuit that could soon help people walk and run. You know what: it's just nice to report a new exoskeleton that doesn't have a tail.
You wear the hip exosuit on your waist and thighs with the actuation system attached to your lower back. The system uses an algorithm to predict when you're going to switch from running to walking, or vice versa, by analyzing how your center of mass is moving. That way, it doesn’t give you too much of a boost when you're walking.
According to the researchers, the new suit is lightweight and uses a cable actuation system that applies force from the waist belt, and thigh wraps to generate torque that works in concert with the gluteal muscles.
The device weighs a little more than 11 pounds, but most of the weight is around your trunk.
In initial tests, the exosuit reduced metabolic rates in walkers by 9.3 percent and in runners by 4 percent. In subsequent experiments, it helped users more efficiently walk uphill, run at various speeds and traverse multiple terrains.
The hip exosuit was actually developed as part of DARPA’s former Warrior Web program and is the result of years of soft exosuit R&D. The team previously developed a multi-joint exosuit that was licensed by ReWalk Robotics. In April 2018, the previous suit was used by a paralyzed man to complete a marathon.
The team includes researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Their work was recently published in Science Robotics.
Next, the team will try to make an even smaller, lighter and quieter version of the robotic shorts.
Microwave-Sized Harvester Pulls Water from Desert Air
Researchers from the University of California-Berkeley have developed a new solar-powered water harvester that's the size of a microwave and pulls water out of the air in areas as dry as the Mojave Desert.
The harvester blows air over a cartridge filled with metal-organic framework (MOF). The framework pulls water from the air, which is then removed by heating it. Next, the concentrated water vapor blows through a tube to a condenser.
The harvester can pull more than five cups of water from low-humidity air per day for each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of water-absorbing material.
The harvester, which runs on solar panels and a battery, recently went through three days of field tests in the Mojave Desert. The device produced about three cups of water (0.7 liters) per kilogram of absorber per day.
On the driest day, with a relative humidity of 7% and temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the harvester still produced six ounces (0.2 liters) of water per kilogram per day.
A new startup, Water Harvester Inc., plans to market a version of the device that can supply seven to 10 liters of water per day: enough drinking and cooking water for two to three adults.
A larger version of the harvester, about the size of a mini-fridge, will provide 200 to 250 liters of water per day, enough for a household to drink, cook and shower. In two years, the company hopes to have a harvester that will produce 20,000 liters per day, enough to provide water for a village, all running off the grid.
The research is published in the new issue of ACS Central Science.
SpaceX Closer to Mars Mission After Starhopper Flight
This week, SpaceX successfully tested the Starhopper prototype in Texas. In just 57.36 seconds, the rocket lifted off, reached 150 meters, and then stuck the landing.
It was the craft’s second successful test. In July, it reached 18 meters, because the FAA had restricted it to less than 25 meters.
According to a report from designboom, Starhopper is part of a broader R&D effort to burn liquid methane in SpaceX’s engines instead of kerosene.
The technology seems destined for a mission to Mars. Elon Musk ended a series of congratulatory tweets by stating that the craft will one day land on the "rusty sands of Mars.”
According to a Seattle Times report, Starhopper will now be retired and cannibalized for parts. The company will also shift focus to Starship, the rocket it plans to send to Mars.
The Starship will be designed to carry up to 100 passengers to the moon and Mars.
Oh, and if there is any question about whether or not there is a renewed interest in space? The Starhopper test has been viewed more than 1.2 million times in less than 24 hours.