Skip to comments.UT Dallas-led team makes powerful muscles from fishing line and sewing thread
Posted on 02/25/2014 9:09:16 PM PST by Vince Ferrer
An international team led by The University of Texas at Dallas has discovered that ordinary fishing line and sewing thread can be cheaply converted to powerful artificial muscles.
The new muscles can lift a hundred times more weight and generate a hundred times higher mechanical power than the same length and weight of human muscle. Per weight, they can generate 7.1 horsepower per kilogram, about the same mechanical power as a jet engine.
In a paper published Feb. 21 in the journal Science, researchers explain that the powerful muscles are produced by twisting and coiling high-strength polymer fishing line and sewing thread. Scientists at UT Dallas's Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute teamed with scientists from universities in Australia, South Korea, Canada, Turkey and China to accomplish the advances.
The muscles are powered thermally by temperature changes, which can be produced electrically, by the absorption of light or by the chemical reaction of fuels. Twisting the polymer fiber converts it to a torsional muscle that can spin a heavy rotor to more than 10,000 revolutions per minute. Subsequent additional twisting, so that the polymer fiber coils like a heavily twisted rubber band, produces a muscle that dramatically contracts along its length when heated, and returns to its initial length when cooled. If coiling is in a different twist direction than the initial polymer fiber twist, the muscles instead expand when heated.
Compared to natural muscles, which contract by only about 20 percent, these new muscles can contract by about 50 percent of their length. The muscle strokes also are reversible for millions of cycles as the muscles contract and expand under heavy mechanical loads.
"The application opportunities for these polymer muscles are vast," said corresponding author Dr. Ray Baughman, the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Chemistry at UT Dallas and director of the NanoTech Institute. "Today's most advanced humanoid robots, prosthetic limbs and wearable exoskeletons are limited by motors and hydraulic systems, whose size and weight restrict dexterity, force generation and work capability."
Baughman said the muscles could be used for applications where superhuman strengths are sought, such as robots and exoskeletons. Twisting together a bundle of polyethylene fishing lines, whose total diameter is only about 10 times larger than a human hair, produces a coiled polymer muscle that can lift 16 pounds. Operated in parallel, similar to how natural muscles are configured, a hundred of these polymer muscles could lift about 0.8 tons, Baughman said.
On the opposite extreme, independently operated coiled polymer muscles having a diameter less than a human hair could bring life-like facial expressions to humanoid companion robots for the elderly and dexterous capabilities for minimally invasive robotic microsurgery. Also, they could power miniature "laboratories on a chip," as well as devices for communicating the sense of touch from sensors on a remote robotic hand to a human hand.
The polymer muscles are normally electrically powered by resistive heating using the metal coating on commercially available sewing thread or by using metal wires that are twisted together with the muscle. For other applications, however, the muscles can be self-powered by environmental temperature changes, said Carter Haines, lead author of the study.
"We have woven textiles from the polymer muscles whose pores reversibly open and close with changes in temperature. This offers the future possibility of comfort-adjusting clothing," said Haines, who started his research career in Baughman's lab as a high school student doing summer research through the NanoExplorers program, which Baughman initiated. Haines earned an undergraduate physics degree from UT Dallas and is now a doctoral student in materials science and engineering.
The research team also has demonstrated the feasibility of using environmentally powered muscles to automatically open and close the windows of greenhouses or buildings in response to ambient temperature changes, thereby eliminating the need for electricity or noisy and costly motors.
### Other UT Dallas Nanotech Institute researchers involved with the work are Dr. Shaoli Fang, associate research professor; Dr. Marcio Lima and Dr. Mikhail Kozlov, research scientists; Dr. Na Li, Dr. Mônica Jung de Andrade, Dr. Jiyoung Oh and Dr. Xavier Lépro, research associates; and Benjamin Swedlove, graduate research assistant.
International collaborators are Dr. Geoffrey M. Spinks, Dr. Javad Foroughi, Sina Naficy and Dr. Gordon G. Wallace from the University of Wollongong (Australia); Dr. Fatma Göktepe and Dr. Özer Göktepe from Namik Kemal University (Turkey); Shi Hyeong Kim and Dr. Seon Jeong Kim from Hanyang University (Korea); Seyed M. Mirvakili and Dr. John D. W. Madden from the University of British Columbia (Canada); and Xiuru Xu from Jilin University (China).
The research was principally funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, with additional funding from the Air Force, the Office of Naval Research, the Robert A. Welch Foundation, the Creative Research Initiative Center for Bio-Artificial Muscle, the Korea-U.S. Air Force Cooperation Program, the Australian Research Council, the Australian National Fabrication Facility, a Canada Discovery grant, the China National 973 Project and NSF China.
If anyone needs me, I'll be in the basement for a bit...
I was thinking about something like this the other day as I pondered a more permanent fix for my shoulder and the torn ligaments.
Looks like God has the really smart people at work on this and I’ll probably go in for an upgrade within ten years
Fer yer interest....
In the last year or so I have been playing with Texas Instruments controllers and more recently with the Beaglebone Black computer board.
I have been reluctant to try some mechanical projects with them because of the cost, weight, and power requirements of conventional motors and mechanical linkages. I will have to see if I can make some of these things myself.
I am vaguely recalling a resistive rubber string or filament which changes resistance with stretching. Using this for feedback, I can picture a pretty compact one dimensional "motor".
Add in some readily manufactured plastic parts using 3-d printing and the possibilities seem pretty exciting.
... As if I don't have enough hobbies already.
One more possibility for a cyber body.
Which would be nice, but it’s the heavenly one which ultimately counts. That one will have no weaknesses.
It was basically done by mimicking nature.
It might not be all that wonderfully energy efficient (a vehicle based on this might not win any fuel efficiency prizes), but it sure seems to have the virtue of flexible application. It’s lower-tech, and it is easier to do heat than it is to do electromagnetics.
Sure but, then there would be no point to humanity.
We are flawed so we might improve ourselves and in so doing improve the human condition.
Then we can travel to distant lands and take over....
Well, when you say there is no point to humanity, you got to deal with God.
God says some uncomfortable things about this mortal coil. It is subject to frustration, on purpose, is one such thing.
Problems can be ameliorated in it. They can’t be utterly banished.
It was a joke.
Dang it. Keyboard fails my ability to transmit humor...
That’s why God predestined the :-)
In the Sweet bye and bye
We will meet on that beautiful shore...
I wonder if they’ll give us a two=for-one special . . .
would be freakin awesome.
I had just discussed this with my brother and he was thinking about the type of material that would be used.
I showed him how the tendons works, where they attach and some article at Johns Hopkins about the pressures, strength, etc exerted on a tendon over a lifetime.
His first thought was that a muscle would be the weak part and I explained the elascistiy qualities of a the muscle, it reparative and recuperartive properties and how a tendon ties in, as well why the tendon is actually the weak part of musculature.
And then I read this article and I’m just “Whoa! I knew I was born in the right day and age when God will enable the sciences and arts applied by man to solve almost any problem.
Best part is I live Murica and it happens better and faster here than almost anywhere else on earth”.
Could be worse:
“I could be a single man, living in a Somalia and pregnant...”
That would suck...
If that's where the adventure is . . . go for your dreams. %lt/sarc%gt
By the time this becomes a part of useful technology here in Murica, you'll be on your tenth cut-and-PT cycle, and I'll still look like Edward Scissorhands.
Headed out the door for PT and the sports therapist.
Today is a fun day when I see em both.
Not as fun as tomorrow when I’ll be thinking about them....lovingly of course....
Good news is pain reassures me I’m alive.
Least that’s how I look at it.
Aint’ nuttin but a thing baby!