Space age prosthetic leg helps conquer world record

October 27th, 2008 - 4:21 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 27 (IANS) German athlete Wojtek Czyz set a new world record at the Beijing Paralympics 2008, leaping an amazing 6.50 metres, beating the existing record by 27 cm.He achieved the amazing feat with the help of space-technology enhanced prosthetic leg. In 2004, European Space Agency’s (ESA) ‘technology transfer programme’ (TTP) broker MST Aerospace met Czyz and his trainer to perform a pre-screening of the most crucial elements of the prosthesis used by Czyz.

Having lost part of his left leg three years before in a sports accident, he now uses a prosthesis in two athletic disciplines - long jump and sprint competitions.

“The objective was to see how to improve his performance, and we found the most important problem was related to a connection angle, the so-called L-bracket, between the knee joint and the foot module,” explained Werner Dupont, MST Aerospace managing director, said an ESA release.

“In collaboration with the German company ISATEC, we developed a new L-bracket using materials originating from the alpha magnetic spectrometer (AMS), an instrument that will be mounted on the International Space Station to study extraterrestrial anti-matter, matter and missing matter.”

The advantage of these space materials is that they are extremely strong and at the same time lighter than conventional products, both important advantages for top athletes’ performance. The problem with Czyz’ previous prosthesis was that it tended to break when he performed at peak capacity.

At the previous Paralympics Games in Athens, Czyz competed with a space-technology enhanced prosthetic leg and won a gold medal in three disciplines: 100 m sprint, 200 m sprint and long jump.

Following this success, MST and ISATEC, a German engineering company dealing with light materials, continued to work on improving the prosthesis. In a series of investigations undertaken by MST, including a number of advanced calculations on the dynamic performance of the materials done by ISATEC, a single-part foot module made in carbon fibre reinforced plastics proved to be the most promising solution for a sprint prosthesis.

For the long jump discipline, the previous design consisting of an L-bracket and a foot module was proven to be the most efficient.

“We first started working on improving the prosthesis for the sprint discipline, and then further improved the long jump prosthesis as well,” continued Dupont.

“This latest development turned out to be a great success at the Paralympics 2008, and helped Wojtek Czyz beat the world record by an incredible 27 cm.”

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