UCLouvain takes big step forward with leg-ankle prosthesis

20/11/2020

Traditional leg prostheses are heavy, annoying, noisy and very expensive. Louvain Bionics, a research centre of UCLouvain, has completed a revolutionary prototype that overcomes these difficulties.

Every year, some 200,000 people worldwide, including 1,800 Belgians, lose a leg due to complications of diabetes, an accident, a congenital disease, bone or muscle cancer. They have to learn to walk again with a prosthesis. The quality of life for those who have undergone amputation does improve considerably, thanks to the ever more ingenious materials used and now also to genrobotics.

But Louvain Bionics has been working for several years on a groundbreaking bionic leg-ankle prosthesis, a 3D walking robot that tries to work out and faithfully imitate human movements. It is lighter, more compact and therefore a lot more comfortable than its mechanical predecessors. All the technological components are integrated into the base of the prosthesis, except, for the time being, the battery, which means the ergonomics will still need some work. A few other points are also yet to be addressed. For example, a wear-and-tear test will need to demonstrate the durability of the materials, the prosthesis needs to be suitable for both flat surfaces and stairs and the price must remain below 5,000 euros.

UCLouvain has signed a four-year partnership with the world's second-largest manufacturer of bionic prosthetics. The final model is expected on the market in 2026 or 2027.