Scientists Build Artificial Muscle with Super Strength

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - 14:39

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University have developed an artificial muscles that can lift up to a thousand times their own weight.

According to the Verge report, in the journal PNAS, researchers describe a new type of soft artificial muscle that could be used to build soft robots. Each muscle consists of a sealed bag filled with air or fluid, containing a folding origami structure that functions as the skeleton.

“We’ve been interested in soft robots for a long time because they’re safe, because they are compliant and because they can deal with uncertainty,” said roboticist Daniela Rus, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and one of the study’s senior authors. “They’re very robust and easy to control, relatively speaking.”

When the pressure inside the bag is reduced using an electric pump, the whole structure collapses and contracts, just like the muscles in your arm or leg. It may not sound like a recipe for strength, but these artificial muscles are much stronger than their human counterparts, capable of lifting 1,000 times their own weight.

Their relative simplicity, as well as flexibility when it comes to the materials you can use to create them, means that these artificial muscles can range in size from a few millimeters to as much as a full meter in length, with relatively few changes in overall performance. The larger the muscle, the more it can lift, and researchers in the project envision eventually building an elephant robot complete with a trunk that works just like a real elephant’s.

This solution elegantly addresses some of the existing challenges of soft robotic, in terms of the flexibility, strength and limitations of other methods of creating simulated muscles for use in soft robotic applications.

Potential applications for this technology in practice could include medical assistance devices, industrial robotics, space exploration, and various wearable exoskeletons, according to the researchers.

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