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3D-Printed artificial muscle can lift up to 1,000 times its own weight

J-P Mauro - published on 09/20/17 - updated on 09/20/17

This futuristic technology opens new doors for robotics.

Researchers from the Creative Machines laboratory at Columbia University, New York, have designed an artificial muscle that is capable of lifting up to 1,000 times its own weight. They call it a “soft actuator.”

These “soft actuators” are 3D printed with a gel that hardens to become a soft, rubber-like material. According to co-author Dr. Aslan Miriyev, “[Soft actuators] can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight.” He hails it as the “closest artificial material equivalent we have to natural muscle.”

Sky News reports:

Researchers found it had a strain density — the density of energy stored in each gram of a stretched elastic body — 15 times stronger than that of natural muscle.

Using a small electrical current, scientists are able to cause the artificial muscle to expand and contract, just as organic muscles do. The video shows examples of how these artificial muscles could be joined to create primitive moving robots.

Researchers hope that “soft actuators” will also improve the performance of medical robots, allowing them to better grip surgical tools and allow for smoother, more precise movements.

Lead author Professor Hod Lipsen believes that this technology has broken “one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.” He reminds us,however, that physical robots are still primitive, compared to the “great strides” we have made in artificial intelligence.

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