Robotics researchers have been eager to move towards making more life like robots, and a very key step in doing this is to create bending muscle fibers just like in humans. Continuing the trend, engineers at MIT claim to have finally created a cheap yet applicable way to make bending muscle fibers using nylon fiber.
The synthetic nylon fiber can be given any shape and can provide linear muscular activity, which is so vital in creating a fully functional muscle, although complex bending like that in human fingers is still a challenge. The entire research is detailed in Advanced Materials Journal.
There are some existing structures which can be used to achieve these bending applications, such as carbon nanotube yarns, but they are incredibly exotic and expensive for commercial use.
MIT’s new process utilizes nylon fiber by using its unique properties which make it shrink in length but expand in diameter. And by harnessing this shrinking property, the team managed to create motion without using any moving piece.
They also used another property called limiting, where the material is cooled on one side and heated on the other to cause disproportionate cooling and consequently leading to bending. Seyed Mohammad Mirvakili, the lead in the project, said,
“You need a combination of these properties…. high strain [the pull of the shrinking motion] and low thermal conductivity.”
The nylon fishing line was compressed and made into a rectangle or a square. After that, the fiber was bent by heating on one side, and the same heating was also directed to create the figure of eights and circles from the fibers. The team hopes that this technology could be used in the future to create self-adjusting catheters, or even tracking systems on energy devices.
Geoffrey Spinks, who is a professor at Australia’s University of Wollongong called the project “novel” and “elegant.”
He added on,
“This is a simple idea that works really well. The materials are inexpensive. The manufacturing method is simple and versatile. The method of actuation is by simple electrical input. The bending actuation performance is impressive in terms of bending angle, force generated, and speed.”
Pretty cool, isn’t it?