Energy-recycling stairs could replace stairlifts

These stairs will literally put a spring in your step.

For most people stairs are a minor inconvenience, but for those with mobility issues they're a nightmare. However, the tedious ascent is set to get a lot easier thanks to new "energy-recycling stairs" that are currently in the works. The idea is that the steps will help folks reduce the effort they expend in their journey by cushioning or boosting their efforts.

The design is the work of a group of mechanical engineers, biomedical engineers and computer scientists at Georgia Tech. The spring-loaded stairs compress when stepped on, absorbing impact and saving 26 percent of a person's energy. This energy is then stored to provide a boost of 37 percent when stepped on going upwards.

The technology has mainly been designed to benefit the elderly and those who have difficulty getting around. Each step contains springs and sensors, essentially providing a cushion and brake to reduce the amount of effort and impact usually caused by using stairs. The system can be installed on existing staircases on a temporary or permanent basis, and the researchers hope that, if developed further, it could replace stairlifts and even elevators.