Researchers Work on Artificial Muscles That Lift 650 Times Their Weight

Three groups of scientists released papers on the work they've done to create artificial muscles that are way stronger than their human counterparts.
Donna Fuscaldo
Muscle fibersChrisChrisW/iStock

Watch out Hercules and the Hulk. They have nothing on the artificial muscles developed by three research teams. 

Basing their work on the idea that a coiled up substance is able to stretch similar to a muscle, three different research teams submitted papers on their work creating artificial muscles that can lift more than 650 times their weight among other things. These artificial muscles could be used in prosthetics, microrobots and even smart textiles that respond to environmental changes, the researchers said in the papers


Artificial Muscles Can Lift 650 Times Thier Own Weight 

Mehmet Kanik of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his team created a two-faced polymer fiber that was used to create artificial muscles that are activated by heat and can lift more than 650 times their own weight. The muscle could also withstand strains of more than 1,000%. The researches tested the muscle in an artificial bicep. It lifted a weight when heat was applied to it. 

Meanwhile, Jiuke Mu of the University of Texas Dallas and his team described in their paper a fiber that receives power by an electrothermally sensitive sheath that surrounds coiled cheap materials such as nylon and bamboo. The muscles built out of the materials have 40 times more contractile power than human muscles. 

Jinkai Yuan and colleagues' at the University of Bordeaux, showed off a microengine in their paper that is made of shape memory nanocomposite fibers that are coiled to store energy. The energy can be released on demand after a small change in the temperature. 

More Work Needs to Be Done 

The work on the three teams of researchers holds a lot of promise in a variety of areas including prosthetics and apparel. But it will take some time before the artificial muscles will be used for humans. According to one report, about 3% of the energy sent to the artificial muscles are actually used by the fibers. The rest is lost but once that problem is overcome artificial muscles could be used more often.  

The three groups of researchers aren't the only ones working to develop artificial muscles. In June scientists from Linköping University in Sweden created an artificial muscle made of a substance with a molecular structure bonded together, paving the way for implantable artificial muscles and micro-robots fuelled by human organs.