Collaboration breakthrough gives artificial muscles superhuman strength
Researchers from Australia’s University of Wollongong (UOW), in collaboration with teams across the world, have developed “socks” that can be used to create intelligent materials and fabrics that react by sensing the environment around them.
Partners based in the US, China, South Korea were integral to UOW researchers creating the sheath-run artificial muscles (SRAMs). They are a muscle type that provides higher performance, in which a sheath around a coiled or twisted yarn, contracts when heated, and returns to its initial state when cooled.
The research from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) found SRAMs generate 1.98 watts per gram of average contractile power. That’s 40 times the amount of human muscle and nine times that of the highest power alternative electrochemical muscle.
The possibilities for this new development are varied, going well beyond just muscle replacement.
“When we talk artificial muscles, we’re not talking about a technology as a replacement for muscles in the body. These muscles offer some exciting opportunities for technologies where the artificial muscles intelligently actuate by sensing their environment,” ARC-DECRA Fellow and lead Australian researcher Dr Javad Foroughi explained.
“Picture these muscles being woven into comfort-adjusting textiles that cool in summer and warm in winter depending on their exposure to temperature, moisture (like sweat), and sunlight, or as smart controlled drug release devices for localised drug delivery through the actuation of valves that control the flow of liquids depending on their chemical composition or temperature.”
ACES Director Distinguished Professor Gordon Wallace described this work as an excellent example of the importance of global collaboration in delivering efficient, effective and high impact advances in research and innovation.
The study, published in the journal Science, includes collaboration by the University of Wollongong, the University of Texas at Dallas (USA), Donghua University (China), and Hanyang University (South Korea).
“The success of our Centre’s work on artificial muscles is the result of our highly skilled researchers being important contributors to a diverse and multidisciplinary team assembled from across the globe. Building these links enables the realisation of exciting new technologies,” Wallace said.
The research was also funded by several international organisations, including the Australian Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Office of Naval Research, National Science Foundation, Robert A. Welch Foundation, Australian Research Council, National Research Foundation of Korea, and the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality.