With all the different Syfy movies out today we have seen a fair number of robots and androids power their way across the big screen. While some are certainly larger than life others tend to be fairly human-like. One thing that they have in common though is the level of strength they display. Most of it is from the aid of hydraulics or actuators, the most intriguing are the ones that display artificial muscles. As cool as it is, what all would go into something like this? Well, a group of researchers from KAIST seems to have found a good way of developing their own.

Engineers around the world have been striving to develop a durable for actuators that can respond quickly and bend without breaking. There are many applications these muscles can be used for, such as medical research, prosthetics, and wearable tech. The team from KAIST’s Creative Research Initiative Center for Functionally Antagonistic Nano-Engineering developed a very thin, responsive, flexible and durable artificial muscle. Using a material called MXene, they have made an actuator that resembles that of a thin slip of paper. The MXene is made of layers of titanium and carbon compounds that are “ionically cross-linked” (connected through an ionic bond) to a synthetic polymer that gives the material its flexibility.


This combination of flexibility and conductivity perform better than others reported. To showcase the ability of these muscles the team incorporated the actuator into a form of wearable art. An origami-inspired brooch mimics how a narcissus flower unfolds its petals when a small amount of electricity is applied. Il-Kwon Oh, lead paper author and professor of mechanical engineering. “It also shows the enormous potential for small, artificial muscles for a variety of uses, such as haptic feedback systems and active biomedical devices.” They are currently looking into more applications to this tech. What uses can you think of?


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