The limitations of functional electrical stimulation (FES) cycling directly affect the health benefits acquired from this technology and prevents its' full potential to be realised. Experiments should be done on a test bed which can isolate and focus only on one muscle group, namely the quadriceps. The aim of this work was to design and develop an isokinetic robotic leg extension/flexion dynamometer which can mimic knee joint motion during actual cycling to be used for evaluation of novel functional electrical stimulation strategies. Although the main motivation for development of the dynamometer was for application in FES studies, it has the potential to be used for various different muscle physiology studies.
A feedback control system with integrated electrical stimulation for isokinetic knee joint torque measurement has been developed and tested for safety and functionality. The leg extension/flexion device was modified and equipped with a DC motor drive system to imitate isokinetic knee joint motion during cycling when the hip joint remains fixed. Real-time bi-directional effective torque on the lever arm was measured by a magnetostrictive torque sensor and a load cell. Closed-loop motor control system was also designed to mimic the cyclical motion at desired angular velocity.
A functional model of the robotic dynamometer was developed and evaluated. The dynamometer is capable of simulating the knee angle during cycling at a cadence of up to 70 rpm with range of motion of 72. The magnetostrictive torque sensor can measure torque values up to 75 Nm. The lever arm can be adjusted and the target knee angle was controlled with RMSE tracking error of less than 2.1 in tests with and without a test person, and with and without muscle stimulation.
The isokinetic knee joint torque measurement system was designed and validated in this work, and subsequently used to develop and evaluate novel muscle activation strategies. This is important for fundamental research on effective stimulation patterns and novel activation strategies. This will, in turn, enhance the efficiency of FES cycling exercise and has the potential to improve the health-beneficial effects.