Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Artificial muscles with the potential to carry 80 times their own weight

A research team has created artificial muscles with the potential to carry 80 times their own weight and extend to five times their original length when carrying a load.

The team from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Faculty of Engineering believe their invention will pave the way for the construction of life-like robots with extraordinary strength. In addition, these novel artificial muscles could potentially convert and store energy, which could help the robots power themselves after a short period of charging.

Led by Dr Adrian Koh from NUS’ Engineering Science Programme and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the four-member team has been working on the project since July 2012.
Robots are restricted by their muscles which are able to lift loads only half its own weight – roughly equivalent to an average human’s strength. Artificial muscles have been known to extend to only three times its original length when similarly stressed. The muscle’s degree of extendibility is a significant factor contributing to the muscle’s efficiency as it means that it could perform a wider range of operations while carrying heavy loads.

In a statement, Dr Koh said, ‘Our materials mimic those of the human muscle, responding quickly to electrical impulses, instead of slowly for mechanisms driven by hydraulics. Robots move in a jerky manner because of this mechanism. Now, imagine artificial muscles which are pliable, extendable and react in a fraction of a second like those of a human. Robots equipped with such muscles will be able to function in a more human-like manner – and outperform humans in strength.’

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