Artificial Muscles Gain Strength

February 20, 2002 | Source: MIT Technology Review

Researchers have developed materials with properties closer to human muscles than anything yet seen. They will be perfect for an anti-gravitational suit, as well as for therapeutic and commercial devices.
The MIT team has recently launched Molecular Mechanisms in Cambridge, MA to develop the technology and expect to create a “superman suit” for the armed forces that could enable soldiers to run, jump and lift to a nearly superhuman degree.

Working with polypyrrole, a polymer, the scientists and have engineered molecules that undergo a fundamental change in their structure when a voltage is applied. The molecules go through an accordion-like deformation. This movement mimics that way mammalian muscles work, but these materials are 100 times stronger.

They are using it to develop a leg sock that will prevent venous thrombosis—abnormal blood clotting that can potentially clog arteries—for people who are at risk due to long periods of immobility, by massaging the legs. Two other possible medical applications include a cardio-wraparound for patients with weakened heart muscles and an artificial urinary sphincter.