Differential-damper (DD) elements can provide a high bandwidth means for decoupling a high inertia, high friction, non-backdrivable actuator from its output and can enable high fidelity force control. In this paper, a port-based decomposition is used to analyze the energetic behavior of such actuators in various physical domains. The general concepts are then applied to a prototype DD actuator for illustration and discussion. It is shown that, within physical bounds, the output torque from a DD actuator can be controlled independently from the input speed. This concept holds the potential to be scaled up and integrated in a compact and lightweight package powerful enough for incorporation with a portable lower limb orthotic or prosthetic device. © 2012 IEEE.
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