Science

Scientists create artificial muscle stronger than human – Reuters

July 14, 2022 — Scientists at UCLA and the nonprofit SRI International are experimenting with a strong, elastic polymer system to create artificial muscles that they say are stronger and more flexible than human muscles.

Polymers are natural or synthetic compounds of large molecules that are the building blocks of many minerals and man-made materials. In this case, the researchers used electroactive polymers that change shape or size when exposed to electricity. They have become darlings of the engineering world and are now used in everything from robotic fish to vacuum cleaners.

UCLA researchers have developed a muscle material made from dielectric elastomers, a type of electroactive polymer, and have unveiled a new process for creating artificial muscles that they hope will one day be applied to soft robotics and even human implants.

“We are very excited about this new material,” says Kibing Pei, Ph.D., author of the study and professor of materials science and engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles. “At peak performance, this artificial muscle is much more powerful than a human.”

The team’s findings were published this month in The Science.

Build Super Muscles

In tests, researchers have shown that the material can not only expand and contract like a human diaphragm when breathing, but also launch a pea-sized ball 20 times heavier than itself. And synthetic muscles equipped with the material were 3 to 10 times more flexible than natural muscles, according to a press release about the results.

To create this superhuman muscle tissue, the researchers took a conventional but inflexible acrylic-based material and used a UV light curing process to obtain a material with better characteristics. The result is a 35-micrometer film as thin and light as a human hair, which is then layered up to 50 times to create an artificial muscle sheet, the authors explain.

Artificial muscles consume electrical energy, unlike human muscles, which use chemical energy from food to function.

“It has a lot of advantages,” Pei says. “It’s easier to control and we can turn equipment on and off at a higher frequency. For human muscles, we usually have low performance at high frequency.

hybrid people

Researchers see the future in medical implant technology and soft robotics. Remarkably, this material could add a “touch” to wearable biomedical technology and could help those unable to smile or blink due to health conditions, Pei told UPI.

“I think there’s a lot of potential,” he said. “It’s new stuff and I think the meaning is getting closer to reality.”

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