Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UBC researchers invent tiny artificial muscles with the strength, flexibility of elephant trunk

14.10.2011
An international team of researchers has invented new artificial muscles strong enough to rotate objects a thousand times their own weight, but with the same flexibility of an elephant’s trunk or octopus limbs.

In a paper published online today on Science Express, the scientists and engineers from the University of British Columbia, the University of Wollongong in Australia, the University of Texas at Dallas and Hanyang University in Korea detail their innovation. The study elaborates on a discovery made by research fellow Javad Foroughi at the University of Wollongong.

Using yarns of carbon nanotubes that are enormously strong, tough and highly flexible, the researchers developed artificial muscles that can rotate 250 degrees per millimetre of muscle length. This is more than a thousand times that of available artificial muscles composed of shape memory alloys, conducting organic polymers or ferroelectrics, a class of materials that can hold both positive and negative electric charges, even in the absence of voltage.

“What’s amazing is that these barely visible yarns composed of fibres 10,000 times thinner than a human hair can move and rapidly rotate objects two thousand times their own weight,” says Assoc. Prof. John Madden, UBC Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Madden says, “While not large enough to drive an arm or power a car, this new generation of artificial muscles – which are simple and inexpensive to make – could be used to make tiny valves, positioners, pumps, stirrers and flagella for use in drug discovery, precision assembly and perhaps even to propel tiny objects inside the bloodstream.”

Central to the team’s success are nanotubes that are spun into helical yarns, which means that they have left and right handed versions, which allows the yearn to be controlled by applying an electrochemical charge, and to twist and untwist.

The new material was devised at the University of Texas at Dallas and then tested as an artificial muscle in Madden’s lab at UBC. A chance discovery by collaborators from Wollongong showed the enormous twist developed by the device. Guided by theory at UBC and further experiments in Wollongong and Texas, the team was able to extract considerable torsion and power from the yarns.

The torsional rotation of helically wound muscles, such as those in the flagella of bacteria, has existed in nature for hundreds of millions of years. Many other natural appendages – from the trunk of an elephant to octopus’s powerful and limber tentacles – also show how helically wound muscle fibers cause rotation by contracting against a boneless core.

The nanotube yarns are activated by charging them in a salt solution, much as a battery is charged. A breakthrough discovery came from former UBC PhD student Tissaphern Mirfakhrai – now at Stanford – who found that the deformation of the yarns is proportional to the size and number of ions inserted. A similar effect is seen in lithium ion battery electrodes used in portable electronic devices, but in yarns it is put to good use. The helical structure of the yarns makes them unwind as they accept charge and swell. They twist back up again when discharged.

“The discovery, characterization, and understanding of these high performance torsional motors show the power of international collaborations,” says corresponding author Ray Baughman, Robert A. Welch Professor of Chemistry and director of the University of Texas at Dallas Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute.

Support for this research includes a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

To view animation that shows potential application for the artificial muscles, visit: http://electromaterials.edu.au/news/UOW112032

Lorraine Chan | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ubc.ca

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht When a fish becomes fluid
17.12.2018 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

nachricht Some brain tumors may respond to immunotherapy, new study suggests
11.12.2018 | Columbia University Irving Medical Center

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Data storage using individual molecules

Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.

Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Pressure tuned magnetism paves the way for novel electronic devices

18.12.2018 | Materials Sciences

New type of low-energy nanolaser that shines in all directions

18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA research reveals Saturn is losing its rings at 'worst-case-scenario' rate

18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>