Muscles are marvellous things.

They can convert chemical energy into work in the blink of an eye if stimulated by an electrochemical signal, they act smoothly, they don’t make any noise and they have a higher power-to-weight ration than any man-made actuator.

That is why scientists are trying to recreate the same characteristic in an artificial device. Among the most promising technologies are Electroactive Polymers (EAP): substances that can deform when an electric voltage is applied to them. These artificial muscles behave similarly to their natural counterpart although their application is still being developed. Interesting application could arise also in the medical field.

In the near future they could replace heavy motors and electromagnetic actuators in robots but also in cars and appliances: the possibilities seem endless. Researchers are looking at nature and the way it uses muscles. One application could be underwater propulsion, for example. EAP muscles could be employed in place of traditional propellers. Benefits could be higher efficiency and less moving parts.

The picture shows an experimental “hand” and how 4 strips of artificial muscles can be used to grip objects.

artificial muscle gripper

NASA/courtesy of nasaimages.org

For more info visit:

  • http://www.artificialmuscle.com/technology/epam.php
  • http://www.empa.ch/plugin/template/empa/*/72289/—/l=1
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