Biomechanical energy harvesting from human motion: Theory, state of the art, design guidelines, and future directions

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260 Scopus citations


Background: Biomechanical energy harvesting from human motion presents a promising clean alternative to electrical power supplied by batteries for portable electronic devices and for computerized and motorized prosthetics. We present the theory of energy harvesting from the human body and describe the amount of energy that can be harvested from body heat and from motions of various parts of the body during walking, such as heel strike; ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, and elbow joint motion; and center of mass vertical motion. Methods. We evaluated major motions performed during walking and identified the amount of work the body expends and the portion of recoverable energy. During walking, there are phases of the motion at the joints where muscles act as brakes and energy is lost to the surroundings. During those phases of motion, the required braking force or torque can be replaced by an electrical generator, allowing energy to be harvested at the cost of only minimal additional effort. The amount of energy that can be harvested was estimated experimentally and from literature data. Recommendations for future directions are made on the basis of our results in combination with a review of state-of-the-art biomechanical energy harvesting devices and energy conversion methods. Results: For a device that uses center of mass motion, the maximum amount of energy that can be harvested is approximately 1 W per kilogram of device weight. For a person weighing 80 kg and walking at approximately 4 km/h, the power generation from the heel strike is approximately 2 W. For a joint-mounted device based on generative braking, the joints generating the most power are the knees (34 W) and the ankles (20 W). Conclusions: Our theoretical calculations align well with current device performance data. Our results suggest that the most energy can be harvested from the lower limb joints, but to do so efficiently, an innovative and light-weight mechanical design is needed. We also compared the option of carrying batteries to the metabolic cost of harvesting the energy, and examined the advantages of methods for conversion of mechanical energy into electrical energy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number22
JournalJournal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - 28 Apr 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Informatics


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