Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Victor Duenas


cycling, exoskeleton, functional electrical stimulation, Lyapunov methods, nonlinear control

Subject Categories

Engineering | Mechanical Engineering


Millions of people experience movement deficits from neurological conditions (NCs) that impair their walking ability and leg function. Exercise-based rehabilitation procedures have shown the potential to facilitate neurological reorganization and functional recovery. Lower-limb powered exoskeletons and motorized ergometers have been combined with functional electrical stimulation (FES) to provide repetitive movement, partially reduce the burden of therapists, improve range of motion, and induce therapeutic benefits. FES evokes artificial muscles contractions and can improve muscle mass and strength, and bone density in people with NCs. Stationary cycling is recommended for individuals who cannot perform load-bearing activities or have increased risks of falling. Cycling has been demonstrated to impart physiological and cardiovascular benefits. Motorized FES-cycling combines an electric motor and electrical stimulation of lower-limb muscles to facilitate coordinated, long-duration exercise, while mitigating the inherent muscle fatigue due to FES. Lower-limb exoskeletons coupled with FES, also called neuroprostheses or hybrid exoskeletons, can facilitate continuous, repetitive motion to improve gait function and build muscle capacity. The human-robot interaction during rehabilitative cycling and walking yield a mix of discrete effects (i.e., foot impact, input switching to engage lower-limb muscles and electric motors, etc.) and continuous nonlinear, uncertain, time-varying dynamics. Switching control is necessary to allocate the control inputs to lower-limb muscle groups and electric motors involved during assisted cycling and walking. Kinematic tracking has been the primary control objective for devices that combine FES and electric motors. However, there are force interactions between the machine and the human during cycling and walking that motivate the design of torque-based controllers (i.e., exploit torque or force feedback) to shape the leg dynamics through controlling joint kinematics and kinetics. Technical challenges exist to develop closed-loop feedback control strategies that integrate kinematic and force feedback in the presence of switching and discontinuous effects. The motivation in this dissertation is to design, analyze and implement switching controllers for assisted cycling and walking leveraging kinematic and force feedback while guaranteeing the stability of the human-robot closed-loop system.

In Chapter 1, the motivation to design closed-loop controllers for motorized FES-cycling and powered exoskeletons is described. A survey of closed-loop kinematic and force feedback control methods is also introduced related to the tracking objectives presented in the subsequent chapters of the dissertation.

In Chapter 2, the dynamics models for walking and assisted cycling are described. First, a bipedal walking system model with switched dynamics is introduced to control a powered lower-limb exoskeleton. Then, a stationary FES-cycling model with nonlinear dynamics and switched control inputs is introduced based on published literature. The muscle stimulation pattern is defined based on the kinematic effectiveness of the rider, which depends on the crank angle. The experimental setup for lower-limb exoskeleton and FES-cycling are described.

In Chapter 3, a hierarchical control strategy is developed to interface a cable-driven lower-limb exoskeleton. A two-layer control system is developed to adjust cable tensions and apply torque about the knee joint using a pair of electric motors that provide knee flexion and extension. The control design is segregated into a joint-level control loop and a low-level loop using feedback of the angular positions of the electric motors to mitigate cable slacking. A Lyapunov-based stability analysis is developed to ensure exponential tracking for both control objectives. Moreover, an average dwell time analysis computes an upper bound on the number of motor switches to preserve exponential tracking. Preliminary experimental results in an able-bodied individual are depicted. The developed control strategy is extended and applied to the control of both knee and hip joints in Chapter 4 for treadmill walking.

In Chapter 4, a cable-driven lower-limb exoskeleton is integrated with FES for treadmill walking at a constant speed. A nonlinear robust controller is used to activate the quadriceps and hamstrings muscle groups via FES to achieve kinematic tracking about the knee joint. Moreover, electric motors adjust the knee joint stiffness throughout the gait cycle using an integral torque feedback controller. A Lyapunov-based stability analysis is developed to ensure exponential tracking of the kinematic and torque closed-loop error systems, while guaranteeing that the control input signals remain bounded. The developed controllers were tested in real-time walking experiments on a treadmill in three able-bodied individuals at two gait speeds. The experimental results demonstrate the feasibility of coupling a cable-driven exoskeleton with FES for treadmill walking using a switching-based control strategy and exploiting both kinematic and force feedback.

In Chapter 5, input-output data is exploited using a finite-time algorithm to estimate the target desired torque leveraging an estimate of the active torque produced by muscles via FES. The convergence rate of the finite-time algorithm can be adjusted by tuning selectable parameters. To achieve cadence and torque tracking for FES-cycling, nonlinear robust tracking controllers are designed for muscles and motor. A Lyapunov-based stability analysis is developed to ensure exponential tracking of the closed-loop cadence error system and global uniformly ultimate bounded (GUUB) torque tracking. A discrete-time Lyapunov-based stability analysis leveraging a recent tool for finite-time systems is developed to ensure convergence and guarantee that the finite-time algorithm is Holder continuous. The developed tracking controllers for the muscles and electric motor and finite-time algorithm to compute the desired torque are implemented in real-time during cycling experiments in seven able-bodied individuals. Multiple cycling trials are implemented with different gain parameters of the finite-time torque algorithm to compare tracking performance for all participants.

Chapter 6 highlights the contributions of the developed control methods and provides recommendations for future research extensions.


Open Access