UCLA scientists and the nonprofit SRI International are testing a strong, flexible polymer in an attempt to make artificial muscles. They describe it as stronger and more flexible than human muscle.
Polymers can be either synthetic substances or natural substances. They are large molecules that are the building blocks of many minerals, and can also be used to make human-made materials. Researchers used electroactive polymers in this instance, which are polymers that change their shape or size when they are stimulated with electricity . These polymers have become a cult favorite in engineering and are being used in technology from robot fish up to dust wipers.
UCLA researchers created the muscle material from dielectric elastomers (a type of electroactive plastic) and developed a new method for building fake muscles. They hope that this process will be used in soft robotics and human implants.
Qibing Pei PhD, a UCLA professor of materials science engineering and author of the study, said, “We’re really excited by this new material.” This artificial muscle has a higher performance than a human one at its peak.
These findings were published in Science.
Creating Super Muscles
The researchers tested the material and found that it could not only expand and contract as a human diaphragm while breathing but could also throw a pea-sized ball up to 20 times its own weight. According to a news release, synthetic muscles made with the material were three to 10 times more flexible than natural muscles.
Researchers used an inflexible acrylic-based material to create the superhumanly muscly fabric. They then used a UV light curing process for a better-performing material. According to the authors, the 35-micrometer thick film is as thin as a human hair and can be layered up to 50 to make an artificial muscle sheet.
Artificial muscles use electrical energy to function, while human muscles use chemical energy from food.
Pei states that this material has many advantages. It is easier to control and activate/deactivate the material at a higher frequency. We generally experience low performance at high frequencies in human muscles.
Researchers see the technology’s future in soft robotics and medical implants. The material is able to add a “sense-of-touch” to wearable biomedical technology and may aid those who cannot smile, or blink because of health conditions, Pei told UPI.
He said, “I believe there is a lot of potential.” “It’s this new material, I believe that the implication of it is becoming closer to reality.”
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