Artificial muscles that drive the powerful limbs or subtle facial expressions of robots can be made using nothing more than fishing line and sewing thread, researchers say. Such components work essentially the same way as toy airplanes powered by rubber bands.
"We can take a very inexpensive material that you can find at your local store and convert it to a powerful muscle that outperforms very complicated technologies," says Ray Baughman, a materials scientist and director of the University of Texas at Dallas NanoTech Institute.
The scientists imagine their new technology will find use in applications where superhuman strength is desired, such as in robots, exoskeletons and prosthetic limbs. For example, by twisting a bundle of polyethylene fishing lines, each about 10 times the width of a human hair, a coiled polymer muscle results that can lift 16 pounds, and 100 of these muscles operating in parallel much like natural muscles could lift about 1,600 pounds, Baughman says.
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