A small plastic strip can do “weight training” to effortlessly lifts many times its own weight, driven by cyclic changes in the humidity of the surrounding air.
Polymer materials that perform work in response to a chemical or physical stimulus are often called “artificial muscles”.
These are very interesting for a number of applications, including controlling the movements of “gentler” robots. All components of such robots need to be soft and flexible so that they don’t damage delicate objects and can move in tight spaces.
The arm developed by researchers working with Michael J. Serpe at the University of Alberta is constructed in the following way: A strip of a plastic film is coated with chromium and gold, followed by a microgel monolayer.
Microgels are cross-linked polymers that swell up with a solvent such as water to form gel particles with diameters of up to a few micrometers. The Canadian researchers used negatively charged microgels made from poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) and acrylic acid. A solution containing polycations is deposited onto the gel. These act as positive counterions.
When this system dries out, the hydrophobic interactions between the hydrocarbon regions of the polymer cations increase considerably, which causes the layer containing the polymer cations to shrink. Because the electrostatic attraction between the polycations and the microgel is very strong and the microgel layer is very firmly attached to the coated sheet of plastic, the ends of the strip bend upwards and the system curls up. When the air humidity is increased, it stretches back out.
The researchers hung one of their strips up in a chamber with controlled humidity conditions. By changing the humidity, they were able to make their artificial arm “grip” the handle of a small package and to “hold on” as it rose up. In another experiment, they hung a chain of paperclips to the end of one extended mini-arm. Cyclic changes in the humidity caused the arm to raise and lower this weight, which was 14 times as heavy as the arm itself, like a miniature weight-lifting exercise.
“Given that a human arm is approximately 6.5 % of the total mass of the human body, this is equivalent to a 75 kg human with a single arm that is capable of lifting 68.3 kg,” Serpe says to illustrate the strength of his miniature arm. Even hanging 52.2 g of weight from a curled-up arm was not enough to stretch it out. If a 75 kg human wanted to achieve a similar feat, he would have to keep his arm bent even with 1280 kg pulling on it.About the Author
Author: Michael J. Serpe, University of Alberta, Edmonton (Canada), http://www.chemistry.ualberta.ca/FacultyandStaff/Faculty/MichaelSerpe.aspxTitle: Polymer-Based Muscle Expansion and Contraction
The original article is available from our online pressroom at http://pressroom.angewandte.org.
Michael J. Serpe | Angewandte Chemie
The herbivore dilemma: How corn plants fights off simultaneous attacks
09.02.2016 | Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research
Shedding Light on Bacteria
09.02.2016 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Exceeding critical temperature limits in the Southern Ocean may cause the collapse of ice sheets and a sharp rise in sea levels
A future warming of the Southern Ocean caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere may severely disrupt the stability of the West...
Indications of light-induced lossless electricity transmission in fullerenes contribute to the search for superconducting materials for practical applications.
Superconductors have long been confined to niche applications, due to the fact that the highest temperature at which even the best of these materials becomes...
Researchers at King’s College London and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom have for the first time demonstrated a direct link between the Wbp2 gene and progressive hearing loss. The scientists report that the loss of Wbp2 expression leads to progressive high-frequency hearing loss in mouse as well as in two clinical cases of children with deafness with no other obvious features. The results are published in EMBO Molecular Medicine.
The scientists have shown that hearing impairment is linked to hormonal signalling rather than to hair cell degeneration. Wbp2 is known as a transcriptional...
Pollens, the bane of allergy sufferers, could represent a boon for battery makers: Recent research has suggested their potential use as anodes in lithium-ion batteries.
"Our findings have demonstrated that renewable pollens could produce carbon architectures for anode applications in energy storage devices," said Vilas Pol, an...
Automobiles increase the mobility of their users. However, their maneuverability is pushed to the limit by cramped inner city conditions. Those who need to...
09.02.2016 | Event News
02.02.2016 | Event News
26.01.2016 | Event News
09.02.2016 | Event News
09.02.2016 | Materials Sciences
09.02.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering