The end result is that the devices will help with human motor control that was lost or impaired by trauma, disease or birth defects.
How It Works
Biomechatronics devices have to be based on how the human body works. For example, four different steps must occur to be able to lift the foot to walk. First, impulses from the motor center of the brain are sent to the foot and leg muscles. Next the nerve cells in the feet send information to the brain telling it to adjust the muscle groups or amount of force required to walk across the ground. Different amounts of force are applied depending on the type of surface being walked across. The leg's muscle spindle nerve cells then sense and send the position of the floor back up to the brain. Finally, when the foot is raised to step, signals are sent to muscles in the leg and foot to set it down.
Biosensors are used to detect what the user wants to do or their intentions and motions. In some devices the information can be relayed by the user's nervous system or muscle system. This information is related by the biosensor to a controller which can be located inside or outside the biomechatronic device. In addition biosensors receive information about the limb position and force from the limb and actuator. Biosensors come in a variety of forms. They can be wires which detect electrical activity, needle electrodes implanted in muscles, and electrode arrays with nerves growing through them.
The purpose of the mechanical sensors is to measure information about the biomechatronic device and relate that information to the biosensor or controller.
The controller in a biomechatronic device relays the user's intentions to the actuators. It also interprets feedback information to the user that comes from the biosensors and mechanical sensors. The other function of the controller is to control the biomechatronic device's movements.
The actuator is an artificial muscle. Its job is to produce force and movement. Depending on whether the device is orthotic or prosthetic the actuator can be a motor that assists or replaces the user's original muscle.
The demand for biomechatronic devices are at an all time high and show no signs of slowing down. Many biomechatronic researchers are closely collaborating with military organizations. The US Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense are giving funds to different labs to help soldiers and war veterans