Prosthetic foot up for MacRobert engineering prize

Page last updated at 8:30 GMT, Monday, 10 May 2010 9:30 UK

A prosthetic foot that mimics the muscle actions of real feet has been short-listed for the UK’s top engineering prize.

Four projects are on the shortlist for the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award, worth £50,000.

Other projects on the shortlist include a better landmine detector, high-speed satellite broadband and a greener way to make acrylic plastic.

The overall winner of the prize will be announced on 7 June.

Muscle mimic

Unlike other false feet, the Echelon prosthetic foot and ankle uses hydraulics to help it align itself.

Before now walking with many types of prosthetic foot has been a conscious process in which an amputee must think about where and how to put their foot down. By contrast, the carbon fibre springs and hydraulic dampers in Echelon combine to put it in the right position as it is put down to take a step.

This means it can cope better with inclines and the hydraulics are arranged so they spread the load of the body like real muscles.

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