Research sheds light on the underlying mechanics of soft filaments
Artificial muscles will power the soft robots and wearable devices of the future. But more needs to be understood about the underlying mechanics of these powerful structures in order to design and build new devices.
A filament is clamped at the top end and prestretched by a small amount by applying a downward axial load to the bottom end. The bottom end is then twisted, keeping the axial load on the bottom end constant. After a critical amount of twist is inserted, the filament spontaneously buckles into a loopy.
Credit: Nicholas Charles/Harvard SEAS
Now, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have uncovered some of the fundamental physical properties of artificial muscle fibers.
"Thin soft filaments that can easily stretch, bend, twist or shear are capable of extreme deformations that lead to knot-like, braid-like or loop-like structures that can store or release energy easily," said L. Mahadevan, the Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and of Physics.
"This has been exploited by a number of experimental groups recently to create prototypical artificial muscle fibers. But how the topology, geometry and mechanics of these slender fibers come together during this process was not completely clear. Our study explains the theoretical principles underlying these shape transformations, and sheds light on the underlying design principles."
"Soft fibers are the basic unit of a muscle and could be used in everything from robotics to smart textiles that can respond to stimuli such as heat or humidity," said Nicholas Charles, a PhD student in Applied Mathematics and first author of the paper.
"The possibilities are endless, if we can understand the system. Our work explains the complex morphology of soft, strongly stretched and twisted fibers and provides guidelines for the best designs."
The research is published in Physical Review Letters.
Soft fibers, or filaments, can be stretched, sheared, bent or twisted. How these different actions interact to form knots, braids, and helices is important to the design of soft actuators. Imagine stretching and twisting a rubber band as tight as you can.
As the twist gets tighter and tighter, part of the band will pop out of the plane and start twisting around itself into a coil or knot. These coils and loops, in the right form, can be harnessed to actuate the knotted fiber.
The researchers found that different levels of stretch and twist result in different types of complex non-planar shapes. They characterized which shapes lead to kinked loops, which to tight coils, and which to a mixture of the two. They found that pre-stretch is important for forming coils, as these shapes are the most stable under stretching, and modeled how such coils can be used to produce mechanical work.
"This research gives us a simple way to predict how soft filaments will respond to twisting and stretching," said Charles.
"Going forward, our work might also be relevant in other situations involving tangled filaments, as in hair curls, polymer dynamics and the dynamics of magnetic field lines in the sun and other stars," said Mahadevan.
This research was co-authored by Mattia Gazzola, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Sciences and Engineering at the University of Illinois, and a former member of the group. It was supported in part by the National Science Foundation.
Leah Burrows | EurekAlert!
Turning carbon dioxide into liquid fuel
06.08.2020 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
Tellurium makes the difference
06.08.2020 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT have come up with a striking new addition to contact stamping technologies in the ERDF research project ScanCut. In collaboration with industry partners from North Rhine-Westphalia, the Aachen-based team of researchers developed a hybrid manufacturing process for the laser cutting of thin-walled metal strips. This new process makes it possible to fabricate even the tiniest details of contact parts in an eco-friendly, high-precision and efficient manner.
Plug connectors are tiny and, at first glance, unremarkable – yet modern vehicles would be unable to function without them. Several thousand plug connectors...
An international research team has found a new approach that may be able to reduce bone loss in osteoporosis and maintain bone health.
Osteoporosis is the most common age-related bone disease which affects hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide. It is estimated that one in three women...
Traditional single-cell sequencing methods help to reveal insights about cellular differences and functions - but they do this with static snapshots only...
“Core-shell” clusters pave the way for new efficient nanomaterials that make catalysts, magnetic and laser sensors or measuring devices for detecting electromagnetic radiation more efficient.
Whether in innovative high-tech materials, more powerful computer chips, pharmaceuticals or in the field of renewable energies, nanoparticles – smallest...
An international research team with Prof. Cornelia Denz from the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Münster develop for the first time light fields using caustics that do not change during propagation. With the new method, the physicists cleverly exploit light structures that can be seen in rainbows or when light is transmitted through drinking glasses.
Modern applications as high resolution microsopy or micro- or nanoscale material processing require customized laser beams that do not change during...
23.07.2020 | Event News
21.07.2020 | Event News
07.07.2020 | Event News
06.08.2020 | Earth Sciences
06.08.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering
06.08.2020 | Life Sciences