Climbing stairs can be a real trudge at the end of a long day or a major obstacle for anyone suffering from mobility impairments. A new development from engineers at Georgia Tech and Emory University have designed a mechanical system that could make ascending and descending stairs less of an effort.

Image Source: Engadget

Potential And Kinetic Energy Aids

Energy-recycling stairs use a series of spring-loaded mechanisms to store energy when someone descends their steps. With every step down, the surface of each stair slowly lowers and locks in place. The stair is then charged with potential energy, which is maintained in a series of springs. When the stairs are then ascended, pressure sensors release the locking mechanism. Each stair is lifted by the kinetic energy of the springs, giving the climber a gentle boost and physical aid in reaching the next stair above.

Stairs With Less Strain

According to the engineers, roughly 26 percent of physical energy is saved on the ankles as each stair compresses on the decent. An additional 37 percent of physical energy is saved on the knee joint in the climbing process. For anyone with weakness in the back, knee, and other parts of the leg, this energy savings can make navigating stairs much less of a strain. While it’s not an answer to all mobility issues, this system may provide extended freedom to those individuals who find their freedom is limited by their ability to safely and easily rely on a staircase.

Make Walk-Ups More Welcoming?

While the prototype doesn’t look like a conventional series of steps and there’s no clear plan to make the system available commercially, the mechanism can be incorporated into existing stairs. In residential, commercial, and public buildings, they may provide cost and space savings compared to elevators and escalators. Perhaps this system will become a viable asset for walk-up apartment buildings and residential properties that cater to seniors and individuals with limited mobility.


Do you have thoughts to add to this story? Would you ever want to see this technology incorporated into flights of stairs that you use on a regular basis? Comment and let us know.

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