Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers invent tiny artificial muscles with the strength, flexibility of elephant trunk

Date:
October 13, 2011
Source:
University of British Columbia
Summary:
An international team of researchers has invented new artificial muscles strong enough to rotate objects a thousand times their own weight, but with the same flexibility of an elephant's trunk or octopus limbs.

A forest of multi-walled nanotubes are pulled and twisted into yarns.
Credit: Courtesy of the University of Texas at Dallas

An international team of researchers has invented new artificial muscles strong enough to rotate objects a thousand times their own weight, but with the same flexibility of an elephant's trunk or octopus limbs.

Related Articles


In a paper published online in Science Express, the scientists and engineers from the University of British Columbia, the University of Wollongong in Australia, the University of Texas at Dallas and Hanyang University in Korea detail their innovation. The study elaborates on a discovery made by research fellow Javad Foroughi at the University of Wollongong.

Using yarns of carbon nanotubes that are enormously strong, tough and highly flexible, the researchers developed artificial muscles that can rotate 250 degrees per millimetre of muscle length. This is more than a thousand times that of available artificial muscles composed of shape memory alloys, conducting organic polymers or ferroelectrics, a class of materials that can hold both positive and negative electric charges, even in the absence of voltage.

"What's amazing is that these barely visible yarns composed of fibres 10,000 times thinner than a human hair can move and rapidly rotate objects two thousand times their own weight," says UBC Assoc. Prof. John Madden, Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Madden says, "While not large enough to drive an arm or power a car, this new generation of artificial muscles -- which are simple and inexpensive to make -- could be used to make tiny valves, positioners, pumps, stirrers and flagella for use in drug discovery, precision assembly and perhaps even to propel tiny objects inside the bloodstream."

Central to the team's success are nanotubes that are spun into helical yarns, which means that they have left and right handed versions, which allows the yearn to be controlled by applying an electrochemical charge, and to twist and untwist.

The new material was devised at the University of Texas at Dallas and then tested as an artificial muscle in Madden's lab at UBC. A chance discovery by collaborators from Wollongong showed the enormous twist developed by the device. Guided by theory at UBC and further experiments in Wollongong and Texas, the team was able to extract considerable torsion and power from the yarns.

The torsional rotation of helically wound muscles, such as those in the flagella of bacteria, has existed in nature for hundreds of millions of years. Many other natural appendages -- from the trunk of an elephant to octopus's powerful and limber tentacles -- also show how helically wound muscle fibers cause rotation by contracting against a boneless core.

The nanotube yarns are activated by charging them in a salt solution, much as a battery is charged. A breakthrough discovery came from former UBC PhD student Tissaphern Mirfakhrai -- now at Stanford -- who found that the deformation of the yarns is proportional to the size and number of ions inserted. A similar effect is seen in lithium ion battery electrodes used in portable electronic devices, but in yarns it is put to good use. The helical structure of the yarns makes them unwind as they accept charge and swell. They twist back up again when discharged.

"The discovery, characterization, and understanding of these high performance torsional motors show the power of international collaborations," says corresponding author Ray Baughman, Robert A. Welch Professor of Chemistry and director of the University of Texas at Dallas Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute.

Support for this research includes a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

To see animation of a potential application of the twisting actuator, visit: http://electromaterials.edu.au/news/UOW112032


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Javad Foroughi, Geoffrey M. Spinks, Gordon G. Wallace, Jiyoung Oh, Mikhail E. Kozlov, Shaoli Fang, Tissaphern Mirfakhrai, John D. W. Madden, Min Kyoon Shin, Seon Jeong Kim, Ray H. Baughman. Torsional Carbon Nanotube Artificial Muscles. Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1126/science.1211220

Cite This Page:

University of British Columbia. "Researchers invent tiny artificial muscles with the strength, flexibility of elephant trunk." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111013185008.htm>.
University of British Columbia. (2011, October 13). Researchers invent tiny artificial muscles with the strength, flexibility of elephant trunk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111013185008.htm
University of British Columbia. "Researchers invent tiny artificial muscles with the strength, flexibility of elephant trunk." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111013185008.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

Buzz60 (Dec. 17, 2014) Urbanspoon predicts whicg food trends will dominate the culinary scene in 2015. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 17, 2014) Demand for ivory has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of African elephants and now a conservation report says the illegal trade is overwhelming efforts to enforce the law. Amy Pollock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Carbon Nanotube Muscles Generate Giant Twist for Novel Motors

Oct. 13, 2011 Artificial muscles, based on carbon nanotubes yarn, that twist like the trunk of an elephant, but provide a thousand times higher rotation per length, have been developed by a team of ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins