12.5 C
New York
Sunday, July 12, 2020
Home News This artificial muscle is powered just like the real thing, no battery...

This artificial muscle is powered just like the real thing, no battery required

The artificial muscle consists of polymer material, into which the researchers have integrated enzymes. A solution of glucose and oxygen in water powers the polymer actuator, in a similar way as biological muscles. Thor Balkhed/Linköping University

Aside from some impressive robotics tech and a synthetic Austrian accent, what’s the most important component for building a real-life Terminator-style cyborg? Artificial muscles, of course! That’s something that scientists from Germany’s Linköping University have been working toward with an intriguing new research project. Well, sort of.

We’ve previously covered some innovative artificial muscles. What makes this latest project innovative, however, is the fact that it blurs the line between live organism and robot. It does this by running on glucose and oxygen, just like real biological muscles in the human body. That means, significantly, that no batteries are required. It could one day be used to create implantable “muscles” powered by biomolecules in their surroundings.

“Although artificial muscles have been demonstrated for many years now, using different physical principles to drive the actuators, this is the first time such actuators are driven directly from glucose and oxygen, making them much more similar to mammalian muscles,” Edwin Jager, senior lecturer in Sensor and Actuator Systems at Linköping University, told Digital Trends.

Linköping University researchers Edwin Jager (left) and Jose Martinez have demonstrated that artificial muscles made from polymers can now be powered by energy from glucose and oxygen, just like biological muscles. Thor Balkhed/Linköping University

The artificial muscle is described more formally as a “polymer actuator.” It’s composed of three layers, with a thin membrane sandwiched between two layers of electroactive polymer. The material on one side of the membrane acquires a positive electrical charge and expels ions, causing it to shrink. While this is happening, the material on the other side picks up a negative electrical charge and gains ions, causing it to expand. This causes the actuator to bend in one direction, much the same way that biological muscles contract.

While this approximate design has been around for some time, what makes this latest demonstration impressive is the fact that it requires no source of voltage to work. It can be powered entirely by immersing the actuator in a solution of glucose in water.

“We envision foremost two application areas,” Jager continued. “[One is] soft microrobotics that can maneuver in the body to deliver a drug cargo or do some minimal invasive surgery. [These could] be powered with glucose from its surroundings, eliminating the need for batteries to drive the microrobots. The other area is autonomously propelled sensor devices for environmental monitoring in lakes and seas. [They could also] harvest the energy needed for their movement from their environment. [However], the latter application would require that we change the enzymes to suit the available biofuels in that environment.”

(No word, then, on building muscular half-man, half-machine robots. But maybe they’re keeping it quiet until it’s ready for launch!)

A paper describing the research was recently published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Hormone boosts could help astronauts from losing muscle on long space journeys
  • The best treadmills for 2019 let you get your cardio in at home
  • The true advantage of AMD’s next-gen chips isn’t power, it’s platforms
  • What car wouldn’t be better with this 1,000-horsepower Hellephant engine?
  • The best tuner cars for 2019






Latest

How to watch the Styrian Grand Prix online from anywhere

If you enjoyed the Austrian Grand Prix, then you're in luck as Formula 1 will once again be racing on

Top Applications for Dyslexic Children to Study Better

Unfortunately, a lot of students suffer from learning disabilities, such as dysgraphia and dyslexia. These disabilities have a deteriorating impact on the...

How to watch Tottenham vs. Arsenal Premier League live stream

With so much riding on this game, Sunday's north London derby promises to be one of the most fiercely contested

Leaked video reportedly unveils Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G with upgraded processor

The new flip phone will reportedly include the Snapdragon 865+