Artificial muscles to give robots superhuman strength
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Last Updated: Sunday, September 15, 2013, 16:55
  
Singapore: Scientists have developed artificial muscles that could allow robots to lift 80 times their own weight, giving the machines superhuman strength and ability.

A research team from the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Faculty of Engineering has created artificial, or 'robotic' muscles, which could carry a weight 80 times their own and can extend to five times their original length when carrying the load - a first in robotics.

The invention will pave the way for the constructing of life-like robots with superhuman strength, researchers said.

Moreover, these novel artificial muscles could potentially convert and store energy, which could help the robots power themselves after a short period of charging.

Robots are restricted by their muscles which are able to lift loads only half their own weight - about equivalent to an average human's strength (though some humans could lift loads up to three times their weight).

Artificial muscles have been known to extend to only three times its original length when similarly stressed.

"Our materials mimic those of the human muscle, responding quickly to electrical impulses, instead of slowly for mechanisms driven by hydraulics. Robots move in a jerky manner because of this mechanism," said lead researcher Dr Adrian Koh from NUS' Engineering Science Programme and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

"Now, imagine artificial muscles which are pliable, extendable and react in a fraction of a second like those of a human. Robots equipped with such muscles will be able to function in a more human-like manner - and outperform humans in strength," Koh said.

Koh and his team have used polymers which could be stretched over 10 times their original length. Translated scientifically, this means that these muscles have a strain displacement of 1,000 per cent.

"Our novel muscles are not just strong and responsive. Their movements produce a by-product - energy. As the muscles contract and expand, they are capable of converting mechanical energy into electrical energy," Koh said.

This means that the energy generated may lead to the robot being self-powered after a short period of charging - which is expected to be less than a minute.

Koh said in about three to five years, they expect to develop a robotic arm, about half the size and weight of a human arm which can wrestle with that of a human being's - and win.

PTI


First Published: Sunday, September 15, 2013, 16:55


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