Artificial robot muscles that could lift loads 80 times their weight
September 4, 2013
National University of Singapore’s (NUS) engineers have created efficient artificial muscles that could one day carry 80 times their own weight and extend to five times their original length when carrying the load.
The team’s invention could lead to life-like robots with superhuman strength and ability and convert and store energy, which could help the robots quickly charge themselves.
Powerful human-like muscles for robots
“Our materials mimic those of the human muscle, responding quickly to electrical impulses, instead of using mechanisms driven by hydraulics,” which create the slow, jerky movements of robots, said Dr Adrian Koh from NUS’ Engineering Science Program and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering.
“Now, imagine artificial muscles that are pliable, extendable and react in a fraction of a second, like those of a human. Robots equipped with such muscles would be able to function in a more human-like manner — and outperform humans in strength.”
The researchers plan to create robots and robotic limbs that are more human-like in both functions and appearance — and more powerful. In less than five years, they expect to develop a robotic arm about half the size and weight of a human arm that can out-wrestle a person.
The secret: polymers that could stretch move than 10 times their original length (a strain displacement of 1,000 per cent), lifting a load of up to 500 times their own weight.
Super-powered robotic machines
Also, as the muscles contract and expand, they are capable of converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. A 10kg electrical generator built from these soft materials would be capable of producing the same amount of energy as a one-ton electrical turbine,” Koh said.
This means that the energy generated may lead to a robot being self-powered after less than a minute of charging, he said. “Think of how efficient cranes could get when armed with such muscles,” he added.