Carbon nanowire muscles can pump it up harder than Schwarzenegger

Science/AAAS

Robots are bound to become stronger than any human, but as far as metal goes, they’ll never look anything like a real person. But now scientists from the University of Texas at Dallas have invented a better alternative to actuators and steel arms by creating artificial muscle fibers that could be formed into flesh-like appendages.

The scientists developed their faux muscles out of carbon nanowires twisted into a yarn filled with paraffin (candle) wax. The artificial muscles are actuated by a small electric charge that causes the wax to heat up, which in turn causes the nanowire yarn expand in size and constrict in length.

The yarn, as spotted by ScienceNOW , constricts like a real muscle, except this one delivers much more power. The scientists say that the artificial muscle can lift 100,000 times its own weight and generate 85 times more mechanical power than a natural muscle of the same size. The actuation occurs instaneously in just 25-thousandths of a second for both the muscles constrictions and release.

In addition to its lifting power, the scientists discovered that the yarn could be used to deliver torque—like the drive shaft on a truck—when allowed to rotate freely. The scientists say that the torsional power provided by the yarn was comparable to a large electric motor when they used it to rotate a paddle for 11,500 revolutions per minute for more than 2 million reversible cycles.

The scientists say that their nanoscale muscles could lead to small but powerful actuators. The next big challenge for the team, as posited by Ray Baughman of the university’s NanoTech Institute, is “[to upscale its] single-yarn actuators to large actuators in which hundreds or thousands of individual yarn muscles operate in parallel.”

And lo, humanity's quest to bring the robot apocalypse upon itself continues...

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