A team of researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have created a revolutionary type of robotic muscles. They are strong and flexible at the same time, can perceive the movements they perform and, whenever they suffer damage, they can self-heal. However, what is best about them is probably the fact that they are extremely cheap to manufacture.
The robotic muscles are stronger than real muscle, and can heal on their own
The robotic muscles have been called actuators, and have drawn inspiration from real-life muscles. By creating robots equipped with this kind of actuators, researchers would allow them to perform movements just like humans.
To make the robotic muscles work, they filled some elastic material with electrodes made of hydrogel and with oil. Then, they applied some electricity, and the oil started moving around the electrodes. This way, the entire formation started contracting and relaxing just like real muscles, but a lot quicker.
Researchers also took inspiration from the variety of human muscles, and created more types of actuators, each of them performing a different movement. They called these robotic muscles HASEL, which is an acronym for Hydraulically-Amplified Self-healing Electrostatic. However, they are superior to biological muscles as they are stronger, faster, and more flexible.
This technology is extremely cheap
Even the researchers were amazed they could develop such a technology. Eric Acome, the author of one of the studies, explained what is unique about the robotic muscles.
“The ability to create electrically powered soft actuators that lift a gallon of water at several times per second is something we haven’t seen before.”
These muscles are special because they are also self-healing. This property is given by the liquid placed inside of them, which also confers them a lot more advantages than those mechanisms using solids. In the end, the material which keeps the liquid, the oil, and the electrodes is extremely cheap. It is a type of polymer similar to the one used for potato chips bags, and can be manufactures for only 10 cents.