Synthetic Muscles to Superpower Soft Robots

Origami-inspired muscles are both soft and strong and can be made for less than $1.

Synthetic Muscles to Superpower Soft Robots
The movement and shape of the artificial muscles is defined by the shape of their internal “skeleton” – in this case, made of notched blocks of foam. (Image courtesy of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering)

Soft robotics has made a wide margin in the course of the most recent decade. Various scientists across the globe are experimenting with different materials and designs that allows once rigid, jerky machines to bend flexibly as humans. This increased flexibility leads to reduced strength as the materials are not strong or resilient as inflexible ones.

Now, researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the Wyss Institute at Harvard University and MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have devised origami-motivated synthetic muscles that add quality to delicate robots.

These synthetic muscles hold the potential that allows robots to lift objects that are up to 1,000 times their own weight using only air or water pressure. The muscles in real are like actuators with properties similar to natural muscle.

Synthetic Muscles to Superpower Soft Robots
The zig-zag pattern of this muscle’s interior “skeleton” allows the muscle to contract down to a fraction of its original width. (Image courtesy of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering)

Each synthetic muscle comprises of an inward skeleton that can be made of different materials. For example, a metal loop or a sheet of plastic collapsed into a specific example, encompassed via air or liquid and fixed inside a plastic or material sack that fills in as the skin.

There is a vacuum connected to within the sack starts the muscle’s development by making the skin crumple onto the skeleton, making a strain that drives the movement. No other power source or human info is required to coordinate the muscle’s development; it is resolved completely by the shape and organization of the skeleton.

First author Shuguang Li said, “One of the key aspects of these muscles is that they’re programmable, in the sense that designing how the skeleton folds define how the whole structure moves. You essentially get that motion for free, without the need for a control system.”

“This approach allows the muscles to be very compact and simple, and thus more appropriate for mobile or body-mounted systems that cannot accommodate large or heavy machinery.”

Scientists constructed dozens of muscles using materials ranging from metal springs to packing foam to sheets of plastic. They then explored different avenues regarding diverse skeleton shapes to make muscles that can contract down to 10 percent of their unique size, lift a fragile bloom off the ground, and wind into a loop, all just by draining the let some circulation into of them.

Not exclusively can the simulated muscles move from numerous points of view, they do as such with great flexibility. They can create around six times more power for every unit territory than mammalian skeletal muscle can.

Synthetic Muscles to Superpower Soft Robots
Origami-inspired artificial muscles are capable of lifting up to 1,000 times their own weight, simply by applying air or water pressure. (Image courtesy of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering)

In addition, the muscles are lightweight; a 2.6-gram muscle can lift a 3-kilogram question, which is what might as well be called a mallard duck lifting an auto. Also, a solitary muscle can be built inside ten minutes utilizing materials that cost under $1, making them shoddy and simple to test and repeat.

Robert J. Wood, corresponding author of the paper said, “These soft synthetic muscles are highly scalable. We have built them at sizes ranging from a few millimeters up to a meter, and their performance holds up across the board.”

“This feature means that the muscles can be used in numerous applications at multiple scales, such as miniature surgical devices, wearable robotic exoskeletons, transformable architecture, deep-sea manipulators for research or construction, and large deployable structures for space exploration.”