Fishing line and sewing thread can create
powerful artificial muscles that could be used to help disabled people or to
build incredibly strong robots, a new study says.
Compared to human muscle of the same weight
and length, the artificial muscles can lift 100 times more weight and make 100
times more mechanical power, the international team of researchers claimed.
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The artificial muscles – which are created
by twisting and coiling high-strength polymer fishing line and thread –
generate 7.1 horsepower per kilogram. That's about the same mechanical power as
a jet engine, according to the study published in the journal Science.
Vast application opportunities
Temperature changes power the muscles and
these changes can be produced a number of ways: electrically, by the absorption
of light or by the chemical reaction of fuels, the scientists said.
"The application opportunities for
these polymer muscles are vast," study corresponding author Ray Baughman,
chair in chemistry at the University of Texas at Dallas and director of the
NanoTech Institute, said in a university news release.
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"Today's most advanced humanoid
robots, [artificial] limbs and wearable exoskeletons are limited by motors and
hydraulic systems, whose size and weight restrict dexterity...," among
other things, he said.
Along with providing incredible strength in
devices such as robots and exoskeletons, these artificial muscles could be used
to improve the fine-movement capabilities of minimally invasive robotic
microsurgery, the researchers said. In addition, they potentially could be used
to power miniature "laboratories on a chip" and to relay the sense of
touch from sensors on a robotic hand to a human hand.
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