Miniature Electric Generator for Wheelchair Power

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1R43AG029083-01
Agency Tracking Number: AG029083
Amount: $100,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2006
Solicitation Year: 2006
Solicitation Topic Code: N/A
Solicitation Number: PHS2006-2
Small Business Information
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 (480) 560-2316
Business Contact
Phone: (480) 497-8400
Research Institution
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Power wheelchairs are the primary means of mobility for a growing number of Americans. Whether from spinal cord injury, musculoskeletal disease, diabetes, or aging baby boomers, power wheelchair usage is increasing at almost 7% per year [16]. The most significant shortcoming of these chairs is the limited capacity of the lead acid (gel cell, or AGM) batteries they use. Other battery technologies are considered too delicate for the rigors of wheelchair use and are quite expensive. The goal of this project is to create an on-board, miniature power generator for electric wheelchairs to increase battery lifetime, extend their range, and provide additional power for new and existing auxiliary devices. This generator will rely on the recent developments in thermal [5-12] and radiant energy conversion technologies [3, 4] and the breakthrough efficiency of CUBE Technology is recuperated heat source capable of operating on a safe, renewable fuel; a non-flammable mixture of water and ethyl alcohol (ethanol, or drinking alcohol). This generator will be quiet, efficient, and produce less heat and CO2 than two additional people in the room with the wheelchair occupant. Current batteries for wheelchairs are barely adequate for the mobility needs of most occupants, requiring that they often adjust their expectations for daily mobility. In addition, the power profile of wheelchairs puts such strain on the batteries that they must be replaced every 18-24 months at considerable cost ($500-800) and environmental impact. This leaves no overhead power for auxiliary devices such as computers for chair control stability and air pumps for breathing assistance. This shortcoming is particularly acute in the latter half of battery life. Pressure sores are potentially lethal and are considered one of the most costly complications in spinal cord injury patients [1]. New technologies designed to reduce the incidence of pressure sores, such as active pressure point adjustment, in-chair massage, and temperature monitoring and control are very power-intensive and only compound the power drain on these over-worked batteries. In-chair rehabilitation through passive motion and other techniques is possible, but again, consumes considerable power, making it impractical for today's wheelchairs. In addition to the physiological benefits, the psychological benefits from nearly unlimited mobility should also be considered. Alcohol fuel has almost 100 times the energy of wheelchair batteries giving our generator system the potential to double battery life and to provide ample power for increased range, as well as for current and emerging auxiliary system for sore prevention, rehabilitation, and comfort. This project will increase the available power for electric wheelchairs enabling in-chair rehabilitation and active pressure sore prevention, thus accelerating the healing process and reducing the incidence of pressure sores. Pressure sores in deep muscles are potentially fatal and are considered one of the most costly complications in spinal cord injury patients. [1]

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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