Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Michael C. Murphy


The knee joint is the most complex joint in the human body. A complete understanding of the physical behavior of the joint is essential for the prevention of injury and efficient treatment of infirmities of the knee. A kinematic model of the human knee including bone surfaces and four major ligaments was studied using techniques pioneered in robotic workspace analysis. The objective of this work was to develop and test methods for determining displacement and velocity workspaces for the model and investigate these workspaces. Data were collected from several sources using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT). Geometric data, including surface representations and ligament lengths and insertions, were extracted from the images to construct the kinematic model. Fixed orientation displacement workspaces for the tibia relative to the femur were computed using ANSI C programs and visualized using commercial personal computer graphics packages. Interpreting the constraints at a point on the fixed orientation displacement workspace, a corresponding velocity workspace was computed based on extended screw theory, implemented using MATLAB(TM), and visually interpreted by depicting basis elements. With the available data and immediate application of the displacement workspace analysis to clinical settings, fixed orientation displacement workspaces were found to hold the most promise. Significant findings of the velocity workspace analysis include the characterization of the velocity workspaces depending on the interaction of the underlying two-systems of the constraint set, an indication of the contributions from passive constraints to force closure of the joint, computational means to find potentially harmful motions within the model, and realistic motions predicted from solely geometric constraints. Geometric algebra was also investigated as an alternative method of representing the underlying mathematics of the computations with promising results. Recommendations for improving and continuing the research may be divided into three areas: the evolution of the knee model to allow a representation for cartilage and the menisci to be used in the workspace analysis, the integration of kinematic data with the workspace analysis, and the development of in vivo data collection methods to foster validation of the techniques outlined in this dissertation.