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Nylon Based Artificial Muscle Fibers Could Be The Next Big Thing For Robotics Industries - MIT

Artificial muscle fibers, as the name suggests, are artificially manufactured polymer fibers that mimics human muscle behavior till a certain extent. They have a great potential to provide breakthrough results, especially in the field of automation and prosthetic-robotics. However, they are manufactured using carbon nano-tube yarns which though, have a greater longevity but are too costly for industrial usage. Recently, MIT Researchers have presented a paper entitled ‘Multi-directional Artificial Muscles from Nylon’ in the Journal Advanced Materials where they have suggested Nylon fibers as the better substitute.

Nylon Based Artificial Fibers (Top Right) - Their Successive
Preparative Stages

Twisted Nylon fibers have already been used to mimic linear muscle activity. However, researchers faced difficulties in imitating more complex activities such as hand and limb movements. Despite of that, researchers have been able to come up with system that traces movements including Lissajous Patterns, the numeral 8, etc. – all by using Nylon polymer fibers.

Polymers like Nylon, have special abilities. Not only they are strong, but due to their low thermal conductivity, they develop bends when heated. Simply saying, due to uneven heat distribution the polymer fiber develops bend which, after cooling, disappears. This feature allowed the researchers to dump mechanical parts like pullies, lever, etc. which were, previously, a necessity for tracing complex movements. The fiber can be heated via electrical resistance heating, chemical reaction, laser, etc. which broadens the domain of its application in the field of optics and electronics.

Watch this video to see these fibers in action -

Not only thermal properties, but, physical parameters – especially cross-section of the fiber, plays a key role in developing artificial muscle fibers. Fibers with different cross section undergoes different degrees of curvature – allowing use in non-linear actuators. Further, their synthesis follows an easy industry-suited approach with longevity of up to 100,000 bending cycles at a lower manufacturing cost.

Researchers are now interested to re-program the fibers to develop more complex systems. The research is completely new and has huge applications. It can be used to design apparels that fits based on the user’s fitting to biomedical devices and prosthetics to support humans who have lost one of their limbs. Not only robotics, but, medicine, aviation and fashion industries can seek much help from this research. It will be only a matter of time to see the efforts of these fibers in action, making our way of a living a way easier than it is now.

Source – MIT News | MIT Media

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