Nylon Fibre Artificial Muscles — Powered by Lasers!

If only we had affordable artificial muscles, we might see rapid advances in prosthetic limbs, robots, exo-skeletons, implants, and more. With cost being one of the major barriers — in addition to replicating the marvel of our musculature that many of us take for granted — a workable solution seems a way off. A team of researchers at MIT present a potential answer to these problems by showing nylon fibres can be used as synthetic muscles.

Some polymer fibre materials have the curious property of increasing in  diameter while decreasing in length when heated. Taking advantage of this, the team at MIT were able to sculpt nylon fibre and — using a number of heat sources, namely lasers — could direct it to bend in a specific direction. More complex movement requires an array of heat sources which isn’t practical — yet — but seeing a nylon fibre dance tickles the imagination.

There are numerous other challenges to tackle — namely wear — on the path to creating artificial muscles, so each research vector is worthy of due consideration. For further reading, our own Moritz Walter recently outlined a number of different options for artificial muscles.

[via Gizmodo]

9 thoughts on “Nylon Fibre Artificial Muscles — Powered by Lasers!

  1. “More complex movement requires an array of heat sources which isn’t practical — yet — but seeing a nylon fibre dance tickles the imagination.”

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…the auto-brush.

    1. Wrap it in a row of small nichrome coils. Or maybe print traces on the outside of the plastic rod.
      Maybe make it hollow or really clear like an optical fiber, then shoot the laser down the middle. Use the lens from a dvd burner so the electromagnets can aim it. The bounces in different places will move it in different ways.

      1. Maybe bundles of three or four fibers (⠶), or the fibers could be extruded in an ‘X’ shape. Then I think lasing would be possible without requiring excessive optics.

    1. This leads to an idea for a browser improvement. Have a check for animated GIFs/etc. that change too much from frame to frame and automatically drop their contrast or simply not display them. If you have problems with blinkies, you can sanitize your web viewing experience from them.

  2. Given the nearness to a new star wars release, success with this could easily be defined by being given a dmca notice on instructions to build a working c3pio look alike using cd/dvd lasers, cell phone(s) for cpu & ‘siri’ control/response, along with the obligatory 3d printer stl files.

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