The first awardee from Hong Kong to receive the honour
Professor Liao Wei-hsin, Chairman of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)’s Department of Mechanical and Automation Engineering, recently won the 2023 Leonardo Da Vinci Award from the Design Engineering Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Professor Liao is the first scholar from Hong Kong to win the ASME Leonardo Da Vinci Award in its 45-year history.
The ASME commended Professor Liao for his outstanding contributions to the design and invention of machines and devices for human motion assistance, with applications in prostheses, exoskeletons and wearables such as smartwatches and wristbands.
Professor Rocky S. Tuan, Vice-Chancellor and President of CUHK, congratulated Professor Liao, remarking, “This prestigious accolade is a fine tribute to Professor Liao’s contributions to the design and invention of machines and devices for human motion assistance. His commitment to technological advancement has been a great inspiration to the global community. The University and I are proud of his achievements and passion for innovation.”
Professor Liao said, “I am honoured to have received the award from the ASME. This is a recognition of our research and achievement in machine design, and I am grateful to the University for all the support over the years. I hope our invention will make an impact on society and inspire the next generation of youngsters.”
Inventions that get people moving
Professor Liao has led his team to important advances in machine design over the years, in particular three inventions for human motion assistance: a powered ankle-foot prosthesis, a magneto-rheological series elastic actuator for robotic exoskeletons, and human motion energy-harvesting apparatus and conversion.
The powered ankle-foot prosthesis developed by the team can provide net power to the wearer. The wearer can use it to regain a gait that is smoother and more natural, and the human effort in walking can be reduced by 15% or more compared with commercially available passive prostheses. The magneto-rheological (MR) series elastic actuator for exoskeletons can generate large controllable braking torque while consuming little energy. Novel MR actuators can improve energy efficiency by 53% and prolong the working time of batteries by up to 112%. The output power and power density of the embedded generator are more than 10 times higher than those of the existing products.
Furthermore, the lightweight energy harvester was developed to capture biomechanical energy from the motion of the human knee and convert it to electricity that can be used to power wearable electronics such as smart watches. This revolutionary device made possible the dream of generating an inexhaustible and sustainable power supply just from walking.
These innovative designs won three gold and three silver medals at the International Exhibition of Inventions Geneva between 2018 and 2022.
Biography of Professor Liao Wei-hsin
Professor Liao is an international expert in mechanical engineering. Since 1997, he has been with CUHK, where he is currently the Choh-Ming Li Professor of Mechanical and Automation Engineering, the Chairman of the Department of Mechanical and Automation Engineering, and the Director of the Institute of Intelligent Design and Manufacturing. Striving for an innovative spirit, his research has led to the publication of more than 380 papers in international journals and conference proceedings, and 25 patents.
About the Leonardo Da Vinci Award
The Leonardo Da Vinci Award was established in 1978 to recognise eminent achievement in the design or invention of a product which is universally recognised as an important advance in machine design. The award is granted annually by the ASME, and is named after 15th and 16th century inventor Leonardo Da Vinci.
About the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
Founded in 1880, the ASME promotes the art, science and practice of multidisciplinary engineering and allied sciences around the globe. With more than 85,000 members in over 135 countries, the ASME is a not-for-profit professional organisation that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing and skill development across all engineering disciplines, while promoting the vital role of the engineer in society.