A team of scientists at the Northern Arizona University's Department of Mechanical Engineering created a new technique to develop robotic muscles that could be used to move robots in a human-like way. This achievement comes as researchers are continually looking for the best ways to actuate, or enable, robots to make the movements needed to carry out their intended functions.
The research team says the new machine components are designed to mimic the movement of human muscles--and outperform human skeletal muscle in several metrics, according to the German news agency. The study was published in the journal Science Robotics.
Associate professor Michael Shafer told the Phys.org website: "The artificial muscles include inner operating units with a new design similar to the Italian pasta. Because of their coiled, or helical, structure, the actuators can generate more power, making them an ideal technology for bioengineering and robotics applications."
"The artificial muscles are based on twisted polymer actuators (TPAs), which were pretty revolutionary when they first came out because they were powerful, lightweight and cheap. But they were very inefficient and slow to actuate because you had to heat and cool them," Shafer noted.
To overcome this problem, the team used pressurized fluid to actuate, which enhanced the muscles' speed and performance.
The engineers think this technology could be used in soft robotics applications, conventional robotic actuators, for example, for walking robots, or even potentially in assistive technologies like exoskeletons or prostheses.