New ‘artificial muscle’ carries 80 times its weight

3 September 2013
By Tereza Pultarova
Mobile version
Share |
Polymer-based muscles offer better capabilities than hydraulic mechanism currently used in robots

Polymer-based muscles offer better capabilities than hydraulic mechanism currently used in robots

A new artificial muscle created by the National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers sets new limits for robots with superhuman skills.

Lifting up to 80 times its own weight and stretching up to five times its original length, the artificial muscle beats the nature’s weight-lifting champion – the ant, famously capable to carry over 20 times its weight.

“Our materials mimic those of the human muscle, responding quickly to electrical impulses, instead of slowly for mechanisms driven by hydraulics,” said Adrian Koh from NUS’s Engineering Science Programme and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Robots using hydraulic mechanism are rather clumsy, moving in a jerky fashion. Use of advanced polymers, however, could equip the machines with more human-like motion.

“Artificial muscles, which are pliable, extendable and react in a fraction of a second like those of a human, will be able to function in a more human-like manner – and outperform humans in strength,” Koh said.

So far, artificial muscles have been capable of only limited extension, up to three times the original length, and could carry load of less than a half their weight, similarly to humans.  

Apart from super-human abilities, the new artificial muscles can also convert kinetic energy into electricity, providing the robot with an independent and sustainable source of power. 

“As the muscles contract and expand, they are capable of converting mechanical energy into electrical energy,” Koh explained. “Due to the nature of this material, it is capable of packing a large amount of energy in a small package. We calculated that if one were to build an electrical generator from these soft materials, a 10kg system is capable of producing the same amount of energy of a one-ton electrical turbine,” he said.

Initially the team has calculated the theoretical basis for the project, estimating that muscles made of polymers could potentially stretch up to 10 times their original length and lift 500 times their weight. Even though they have so far achieved their goal only partially, their invention is the first in the field.

The team believes polymer-based muscles could pave the way not only to greener robots, but could also be used in construction and other areas.

“Think of how efficient cranes can get when armed with such muscles,” Koh said.

The research team plans to work further with researchers from materials science, mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, as well as bioengineering to create robots and robotic limbs which are more human-like in both function and appearance.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1607

"As the dust settles after the referendum result, we consider what happens next. We also look forward to an international summer of sport."

E&T jobs

  • Spectrum Technology Analyst

    Ofcom
    • Baldock, Hertfordshire
    • £Competitive Plus Comprehensive Benefits Package

    Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications sectors and we are globally respected for the work we do.

    • Recruiter: Ofcom

    Apply for this job

  • Test Engineering Opportunities

    HMGCC
    • Hanslope Park, Milton Keynes
    • Salary offered will depend on skills and experience

    Push incredible innovations beyond their limits. Opportunities for Software, Hardware, EMC, Test and Inspection Engineers!

    • Recruiter: HMGCC

    Apply for this job

  • Development Engineer Opportunities

    HMGCC
    • Hanslope Park, Milton Keynes
    • Salary offered will depend on skills and experience

    At HMGCC, we’re the place where exceptional creativity, ground-breaking ideas and cutting-edge technologies unite.

    • Recruiter: HMGCC

    Apply for this job

  • Head of School of Engineering and Advanced Technology

    Massey University
    • Albany or Palmerston North

    This role offers an outstanding opportunity to lead and further develop a well-established and internationally recognized School.

    • Recruiter: Massey University

    Apply for this job

  • Engineering Support Opportunities

    HMGCC
    • Hanslope Park, Milton Keynes
    • Salary offered will depend on skills and experience

    Working in one of our support roles, you’ll be integral to the creation of some of the most advanced bit of kit in the world.

    • Recruiter: HMGCC

    Apply for this job

  • Programme Manager, Network Resilience

    Energy Networks Association
    • Westminster
    • Competitive salary, dependent on experience

    Co-ordinate the network resilience, emergency planning and the Single Electricity Number (SEN) work in the ENA Engineering team.

    • Recruiter: Energy Networks Association

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Engineer - Configuration

    BAE Systems
    • Surrey, Frimley, England / England, Weymouth, Dorset
    • Negotiable

    Senior Engineer - Configuration Would you like to assist the Combat System Configuration Manager in ensuring that changes to the Common Combat System design are sufficiently assessed, approved, implemented, managed and controlled in accordance with BAE Sy

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • System Planning and Investment Engineer

    SSE
    • Reading
    • 37,000 - £55,000 Plus excellent benefits package - salary depending on experience

    System Planning and Investment team act as custodian of the 132kV and EHV distribution network, provide business with technical expertise.

    • Recruiter: SSE

    Apply for this job

  • Chair in Integrated Sensor Technology

    The University of Edinburgh
    • Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh

    The University of Edinburgh is one of the world’s top 20 institutions of higher education.....

    • Recruiter: The University of Edinburgh

    Apply for this job

  • Metering Engineer

    Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
    • Teddington, United Kingdom
    • £24,109 - £27,961 plus EO Electronics PE of £8,090.00

    We are now looking for a Metering Engineer to deliver RD’s In-Service Testing (IST) scheme for gas and electricity meters.

    • Recruiter: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T