This Origami Inspired Artificial Muscle Lifts 1000 Times Its Own Weight

Posted: Nov 28 2017, 1:30am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
This Origami Inspired Artificial Muscle Lifts 1000 Times Its Own Weight
Origami-inspired artificial muscles are capable of lifting up to 1,000 times their own weight, simply by applying air or water pressure. Photo Credit: Shuguang Li of Wyss Institute at Harvard University
  • Feather-light artificial muscles give soft robots superpowers
  • Origami-inspired muscles can be made for less than $1

MIT and Harvard scientists build a soft robot with new artificial muscles inspired by origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, can apparently lift 1000 times its own weight.

Artificial muscles have been honed down to the level of perfection where they are much more capable than real life muscles. Instead of using electromagnetic motors, these muscles have been used to do some heavy lifting.

Inspired by origami, a team of Wyss Institute at Harvard University and MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) researchers have build these new artificial muscles that give superpowers to soft robots. These new origami-inspired artificial muscles can lift objects upto 1,000 times their own weight by using only air or water pressure.

These artificial muscles are designed for performance and they don’t cost much to manufacture. Not only are they unidirectional but they can function in various modes. The level of freedom that these origami-inspired muscles are able to work at is simply mind-boggling.

“We were very surprised by how strong the actuators [aka, “muscles”] were. We expected they’d have a higher maximum functional weight than ordinary soft robots, but we didn’t expect a thousand-fold increase. It’s like giving these robots superpowers,” says Daniela Rus, Ph.D., the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and one of the senior authors of the paper.

Any and all actuation that is needed for robots and machines can be fulfilled by these artificial muscles. There are a few factors that get in the way of the churning out of these muscles.

There is their operation, the scalability and the normal range of motions for these muscles. Yet come to think of it, all that is required in the way of materials are: a skeletal structure, a skin-like surface and a fluid medium. Via a mechanical scheme, the interaction of these three components generates the equivalent of heavy-duty work.

Everything adds up in case of these artificial muscles and so their mechanical advantage allows them to lift poundages that normally would be impossible to budge by such contraptions. Experiments have shown that the muscles can generate forces that are 90% more potent than the original drive.

“Artificial muscle-like actuators are one of the most important grand challenges in all of engineering,” adds Rob Wood, Ph.D., corresponding author of the paper and Founding Core Faculty member of the Wyss Institute. “Now that we have created actuators with properties similar to natural muscle, we can imagine building almost any robot for almost any task.”

The application of these origami-inspired artificial muscles can be in small medical gadgets and in wearable exoskeletons for soldiers. Also space vehicles can benefit from their application. The field of soft robotics lies wide open for the future thanks to origami-inspired artificial muscles.

What were once rigid and shaking machines that did the heavy lifting work have now become ready to be replaced with robots that can flex their components with speed and precision.

These artificial muscles copy natural movements and are based on imitation of the real world out there. The flexibility they demonstrate so amply may lead to lowered strength.

However, the latest findings reveal that origami-inspired artificial muscles will do away with any mechanical disadvantage. It came as somewhat of a surprise to the scientists. Especially the fact that the forces generated were a thousand times the original made the scientific community stand up and take notice.

The study on these origami-inspired artificial muscles will be published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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