Artificial Muscles Made From Thread And Fishing Line Are 100 Times Stronger Than The Real Thing
An international team led by the University of Texas (UT) at Dallas have used ordinary materials to create powerful artificial muscles, according to a press release Thursday. Fishing lines and sewing thread have been used to create strong and dextrous muscles in an inexpensive way.
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The new artificial muscles are strong enough to lift a hundred times more weight and generate a hundred times higher mechanical power than the same length and weight of human muscle. Per weight, the muscles have the same mechanical power as that of a jet engine, as they can generate 7.1 horsepower per kilogram.
Scientists at UT Dallas's Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute teamed with scientists from universities in Australia, South Korea, Canada, Turkey and China to create the muscle. In a paper published on February 21 in the journal Science, the researchers explain the powerful muscles are produced by twisting and coiling high-strength polymer fishing line and sewing thread. The muscles are powered thermally by temperature changes, which can be produced electrically, by the absorption of light or by the chemical reaction of fuels. This polymer fiber can be twisted and made into a torsional muscle that can spin a heavy rotor to more than 10,000 revolutions per minute.
Another feature of the artificial muscle is that with additional twisting the polymer fiber coils like a heavily twisted rubber band and dramatically contracts along its length when heated, then returns to its initial length when cooled. If it is coiled in a different twist direction than the initial polymer fiber twist, then the muscles expand when heated.This is a huge contrast to natural muscles, which contract by only 20 percent whereas the artificial muscles contract by about 50 percent of their length. The muscle strokes also are reversible for millions of cycles as the muscles contract and expand under heavy mechanical loads.
Dr. Ray Baughman, a co-author of this paper, said, "The application opportunities for these polymer muscles are vast. Today's most advanced humanoid robots, prosthetic limbs and wearable exoskeletons are limited by motors and hydraulic systems, whose size and weight restrict dexterity, force generation and work capability."
These muscles can be used in areas where superhuman strength is required. They can bring life-like facial expressions to humanoid companion robots for the elderly. They are highly dexterous, and can be used for minimally invasive robotic microsurgery. They could also be used to power miniature devices for communicating the sense of touch from sensors on a remote robotic hand to a human hand. Muscles powered by renewable energy and sensitive to temperature changes can be used to automatically open and close the windows of greenhouses or buildings, thereby eliminating the need for electricity or noisy, expensive motors.
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