SUMMARYMuscle measurements of Ensis directus, the Atlantic razor clam, indicate that the organism only has sufficient strength to burrow a few centimeters into the soil, yet razor clams burrow to over 70cm. In this paper, we show that the animal uses the motions of its valves to locally fluidize the surrounding soil and reduce burrowing drag. Substrate deformations were measured using particle image velocimetry (PIV) in a novel visualization system that enabled us to see through the soil and watch E. directus burrow in situ. PIV data, supported by soil and fluid mechanics theory, show that contraction of the valves of E. directus locally fluidizes the surrounding soil. Particle and fluid mixtures can be modeled as a Newtonian fluid with an effective viscosity based on the local void fraction. Using these models, we demonstrate that E. directus is strong enough to reach full burrow depth in fluidized soil, but not in static soil. Furthermore, we show that the method of localized fluidization reduces the amount of energy required to reach burrow depth by an order of magnitude compared with penetrating static soil, and leads to a burrowing energy that scales linearly with depth rather than with depth squared.
There is a major need in the developing world for a low-cost prosthetic knee that enables users to walk with able-bodied kinematics and low energy expenditure. To efficiently design such a knee, the relationship between the inertial properties of a prosthetic leg and joint kinetics and energetics must be determined. In this paper, using inverse dynamics, the theoretical effects of varying the inertial properties of an above-knee prosthesis on the prosthetic knee moment, hip power, and absolute hip work required for walking with able-bodied kinematics were quantified. The effects of independently varying mass and moment of inertia of the prosthesis, as well as independently varying the masses of each prosthesis segment, were also compared. Decreasing prosthesis mass to 25% of physiological leg mass increased peak late-stance knee moment by 43% and decreased peak swing knee moment by 76%. In addition, it reduced peak stance hip power by 26%, average swing hip power by 76%, and absolute hip work by 22%. Decreasing upper leg mass to 25% of its physiological value reduced absolute hip work by just 2%, whereas decreasing lower leg and foot mass reduced work by up to 22%, with foot mass having the greater effect. Results are reported in the form of parametric illustrations that can be utilized by researchers, designers, and prosthetists. The methods and outcomes presented have the potential to improve prosthetic knee component selection, facilitate able-bodied kinematics, and reduce energy expenditure for users of low-cost, passive knees in developing countries, as well as for users of advanced active knees in developed countries.
Drip irrigation is a means of distributing the exact amount of water a plant needs by dripping water directly onto the root zone. It can produce up to 90% more crops than rain-fed irrigation, and reduce water consumption by 70% compared to conventional flood irrigation. Drip irrigation may enable millions of poor farmers to rise out of poverty by growing more and higher value crops, while not contributing to overconsumption of water. Achieving this impact will require broadening the engineering knowledge required to design new, low-cost, low-power drip irrigation technology, particularly for poor, off-grid communities in developing countries. For more than 50 years, pressure compensating (PC) drip emitters—which can maintain a constant flow rate under variations in pressure, to ensure uniform water distribution on a field—have been designed and optimized empirically. This study presents a parametric model that describes the fluid and solid mechanics that govern the behavior of a common PC emitter architecture, which uses a flexible diaphragm to limit flow. The model was validated by testing nine prototypes with geometric variations, all of which matched predicted performance to within R2 = 0.85. This parametric model will enable irrigation engineers to design new drip emitters with attributes that improve performance and lower cost, which will promote the use of drip irrigation throughout the world.
Our research aims to design low-cost, high-performance, passive prosthetic knees for developing countries. In this study, we determine optimal stiffness, damping, and engagement parameters for a low-cost, passive prosthetic knee that consists of simple mechanical elements and may enable users to walk with the normative kinematics of able-bodied humans. Knee joint power was analyzed to divide gait into energy-based phases and select mechanical components for each phase. The behavior of each component was described with a polynomial function, and the coefficients and polynomial order of each function were optimized to reproduce the knee moments required for normative kinematics of able-bodied humans. Sensitivity of coefficients to prosthesis mass was also investigated. The knee moments required for prosthesis users to walk with able-bodied normative kinematics were accurately reproduced with a mechanical system consisting of a linear spring, two constant-friction dampers, and three clutches (R 2 ¼ 0:90 for a typical prosthetic leg). Alterations in upper leg, lower leg, and foot mass had a large influence on optimal coefficients, changing damping coefficients by up to 180%. Critical results are reported through parametric illustrations that can be used by designers of prostheses to select optimal components for a prosthetic knee based on the inertial properties of the amputee and his or her prosthetic leg.
A method is presented to optimize the shape and size of a passive, energy-storing prosthetic foot using the lower leg trajectory error (LLTE) as the design objective. The LLTE is defined as the root-mean-square error between the lower leg trajectory calculated for a given prosthetic foot's deformed shape under typical ground reaction forces (GRFs), and a target physiological lower leg trajectory obtained from published gait data for able-bodied walking. Using the LLTE as a design objective creates a quantitative connection between the mechanical design of a prosthetic foot (stiffness and geometry) and its anticipated biomechanical performance. The authors' prior work has shown that feet with optimized, low LLTE values can accurately replicate physiological kinematics and kinetics. The size and shape of a single-part compliant prosthetic foot made out of nylon 6/6 were optimized for minimum LLTE using a wide Bezier curve to describe its geometry, with constraints to produce only shapes that could fit within a physiological foot's geometric envelope. Given its single part architecture, the foot could be cost effectively manufactured with injection molding, extrusion, or three-dimensional printing. Load testing of the foot showed that its maximum deflection was within 0.3 cm (9%) of finite element analysis (FEA) predictions, ensuring the constitutive behavior was accurately characterized. Prototypes were tested on six below-knee amputees in India—the target users for this technology—to obtain qualitative feedback, which was overall positive and confirmed the foot is ready for extended field trials.
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