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One Step Closer to Lifelike Robots

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The artificial muscle lifts a skeletons arm to a 90-degree position.

Researchers at Columbia University have developed a three-dimensionally-printable synthetic soft muscle that does not require an external compressor or high voltage equipment to operate.

Credit: Aslan Miriyev/Columbia Engineering

Researchers at Columbia Engineering's Creative Machines lab have developed a three-dimensionally (3D)-printable synthetic soft muscle with innate expansion ability that does not need an external compressor or high voltage equipment, which is seen as an important step toward untethered and lifelike soft robots.

The tissue's strain density is 15 times greater than natural muscle, and it can lift 1,000 times its own weight.

The researchers employed a silicone rubber matrix with ethanol distributed in micro-bubbles, integrating the flexibility and extreme volume change of other material systems while also being easy and inexpensive to manufacture.

After being 3D-printed, the artificial muscle was electrically actuated with a thin resistive wire and low power.

The team says the autonomous unit is capable of performing motion tasks in almost any design.

"Like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways," says Columbia professor Hod Lipson. "We've overcome one of the final barriers to making life-like robots."

From Columbia Engineering
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