Scientists Create Artificial Muscles That Function Just like Ours

The creation of artificial muscles that use glucose and oxygen could open many future doors.
Fabienne Lang

Our muscles run smoothly, thanks to a combination of glucose and oxygen. Scientists from Linköping University in Sweden have created an artificial muscle, which runs much like our real ones. 


This could be huge news for the world of prosthetics.

The artificial muscles are made of a special polymer, a substance with a molecular structure bonded together, opening up the future of implantable artificial muscles and micro-robots fuelled by human organs. 

Important discovery for prosthetics

The world of prosthetics, or artificial limbs, has seen significant advancements, especially in the last decade. However, this recent creation could change and improve the lives of many people living with artificial limbs. 

That said, before getting too excited, the main question posed should be: how do these fake muscles operate?

To begin with, the team of scientists needed to create artificial muscle. 

Scientists Create Artificial Muscles That Function Just like Ours
Jose Martinez and Edwin Jager at Linköping University. Source: Thor Balkhed

Led by Edwin Jager, senior lecturer in Sensor and Actuator Systems in the Department of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology at Linköping University, the team used a "polymer actuator" made of polypyrrole. 

Polypyrrole is a polymer of pyrrole, an organic compound, and has high electroconductive properties. It can alter its volume when subjected to an electrical current. 

Electricity or glucose and oxygen to move the muscle

The researchers created the muscle by forming the polymer into two layers with a thin membrane between them. When an electrical charge is placed on one side of the polymer, the ions in the polymer are expelled across the membrane, shrinking the sheet

Scientists Create Artificial Muscles That Function Just like Ours
The artificial muscle consists of polymer material, into which the researchers have integrated enzymes that burn the glucose for energy the same as a biological muscle does. Source: Thor Balkhed

This charge, according to the team of researchers at Linköping, can derive from a battery, but also from glucose and oxygen once the polymer is covered with enzymes - just like our organic muscles. 

Jager said, "No source of voltage is required: it's enough simply to immerse the actuator into a solution of glucose and water."

Pretty neat. 

In principle, it functions and can change the way prosthetics are used.

What's now left to be discovered is how to control the reaction, and whether or not it can be repeated in cycles. Much like our own muscles' movements. 

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