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MIT Artificial Muscle Lifts 1,000 Times Its Weight

Image: MIT Artificial Muscle Lifts 1,000 Times Its Weight

(Screengrab of Youtube post/@Science News)

By    |   Wednesday, 29 November 2017 08:19 AM

MIT has created an artificial muscle that can lift up to 1,000 times its own weight, which could have application in everything from the medical field, to construction, to space exploration, researchers announced.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has worked with the Wyss Institute at Harvard University to create an origami-inspired muscle that adds strength to soft robots using air or water pressure, researchers at the two schools said in a statement.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published results of the research this week.

"These artificial muscles can be programed to produce not only a single contraction but also complex multiaxial actuation, and even controllable motion with multiple degrees of freedom," the researchers said. "Moreover, a wide variety of materials and fabrication processes can be used to build the artificial muscles with other functions beyond basic actuation."

The researchers claim that the new artificial muscle can generate roughly six times more force per unit area than a mammalian skeletal muscle can, and are lightweight. They said a 2.6-gram muscle can lift a 3-kilogram object, which is the equivalent of a mallard duck lifting a car.

The two schools produced a video showing what the artificial muscles can do.

Cost-wise, a single muscle can be constructed within 10 minutes using materials that cost less than $1, making them cheap and easy to test and use.

"We were very surprised by how strong the actuators (muscles) were," said Daniela Rus, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and one of the study's three senior authors. "We expected they'd have a higher maximum functional weight than ordinary soft robots, but we didn't expect a thousand-fold increase. It's like giving these robots superpowers."

According to the researchers, the artificial muscle is built with an inner "skeleton" that can be made with materials like a metal coil or a sheet of plastic folded into a certain pattern, surrounded by air or fluid and sealed inside a plastic or textile bag that serves as the "skin."

A vacuum helps create the muscle's movement by causing the skin to collapse onto the skeleton, creating tension, driving the motion.

"A lot of the applications of soft robots are human-centric, so of course it's important to think about safety," said Daniel Vogt, coauthor of the study and a research engineer at the Wyss Institute.

"Vacuum-based muscles have a lower risk of rupture, failure, and damage, and they don't expand when they’re operating, so you can integrate them into closer-fitting robots on the human body."

The muscle could allow for mobile or body-mounted systems for projects that cannot accommodate large or heavy machinery. The muscle can also be used as miniature surgical devices, wearable robotic exoskeletons, transformable architecture, deep-sea manipulators for research or construction, and large deployable structures for space exploration, the researchers said.

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MIT has created an artificial muscle that can lift up to 1,000 times its own weight, which could have application in everything from the medical field, to construction, to space exploration, researchers announced.
mit, artificial muscle
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2017-19-29
Wednesday, 29 November 2017 08:19 AM
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