Artificial Muscles: Steel and Rubber Wrapped in One

Researchers at the UT Dallas Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute have demonstrated a fundamentally new type of artificial muscle, which can operate at extreme temperatures where no other artificial muscle can be used—from below the temperature of liquid nitrogen (-196°C) to above the melting point of iron (1538°C).

airy carbon-nanotube material

Researchers at the UT Dallas Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute have demonstrated a fundamentally new type of artificial muscle, which can operate at extreme temperatures where no other artificial muscle can be used—from below the temperature of liquid nitrogen (-196°C) to above the melting point of iron (1538°C).

The discovery is reported in the March 20 issue of Science under the title “Giant Stroke, Superelastic Carbon Nanotube Aerogel Muscles.”

Once actuated (or put into motion) in a certain direction, these new artificial muscles can elongate 10 times more than natural muscles and at rates 1,000 times higher than a natural muscle. In another direction, when densified, they can generate thirty times the force of a natural muscle having the same cross-sectional area. While natural muscles can contract at about 20 percent per second, the new artificial muscles can contract at about 30,000 percent per second.

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