MIT’s New Nylon Muscle Fibers Could Lead To Real-Life Westworld

Posted: Nov 23 2016, 11:09am CST | by , in Latest Science News


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MIT’s New Nylon Muscle Fibers Could Lead to Real-Life Westworld
This image shows the fabrication steps from raw circular filament to a fully functional bending artificial muscle. The bottom filament is a raw circular filament. Researchers press the filament using a rolling mill (the second sample from the bottom). Next, they add a mask in the middle of the surface (the third sample from the bottom). Then, they add the conductive ink (the second sample from the top). Finally, they remove mask after ink is dried. Image: Felice Frankel and Seyed M. Mirvakili
  • MIT Experts manage to make Nylon Fibers that move like Muscular Strands

A bunch of experts from MIT have managed to make nylon fibers that move like muscular strands.

Artificial muscles can have many applications. From robots to car spare parts and avionics, the scope for artificial muscles are myriad. Now engineers at MIT have managed to allow for a simple and economical method of producing artificial muscles.

A material has finally been found that does the work of muscles in a copycat manner. It happens to be ordinary nylon fiber. The fibers are shaped and heated in a special way.

All this was described recently in the journal Advanced Materials by Seyed Mirvakili, a doctoral candidate, and Ian Hunter, the George N. Hatsopoulos Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Erstwhile researchers had used nylon fibers to match muscular activity. Yet it had been pretty primitive and crude when compared to the actin and myosin activity of real life muscles as are to be found in wetware agents (that is humans and other life forms).

For a certain size and weight, these filaments of nylon could contract and release their tension thereby acting like muscles.

However, there was a hitch or two in the operation of these nylon filaments. They could not aid in bending movements. These are what the fingers and arms and legs are capable of.

It was indeed a challenge. Yet the experts extracted the lessons from Mother Nature and managed to do what was to be done. Although materials were available which did engage in bending motions, these were made from exotic substances that were not readily available in the market.

Such stuff as carbon nanotube yarns were too precious and scarce to employ in the repertoire of artificial muscles. Something inexpensive and basic was needed.

This was provided by a novel form of nylon. It had great longevity too. Some nylon and polymer fibers tend to shrink in length and expand in width when heated.

Yet converting this peculiar movement into bending takes other complex mechanisms such as a pulley and take-up reel. To make the material do all this on its own was the real challenge.

Thus the nylon fiber was shaped properly in order to accomplish this difficult task. Various heating methodologies were also employed to get the results. Even clothes could use this technology sometime in the future.

These garments will snugly cleave to the contours of the wearer’s body. Also catheters and other biomedical contraptions can benefit from this artificial muscles arrangement. It is indeed a simple idea that works so well that even the scientists who made it possible cannot believe their sheer luck.

MIT researchers have come up with one of the simplest and lowest-cost systems yet for developing artificial muscles, in which a material reproduces some of the bending motions that natural muscle tissues perform. The key ingredient? Nylon fiber. Video: Melanie Gonick/MIT

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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