A team of scientists figured out a surprisingly simple way to create muscles that can lift 1,000 times their own weight: they tightly coiled-up commonly fibers from bamboo or silk. By applying or removing heat or electrochemically altering it, they found that they could contract and relax the artificial muscles, much like biological ones.
The hope is to use these fiber muscles in prosthetic limbs, exoskeletons, or even weave them into special performance clothing that can become more porous as it’s reacting to heat from the wearer.
In a paper published in the journal Science today, the team of researchers claim the synthetic muslces’ “gravimetric work capacity” is 60 times higher than that of skeletal muscles in animals.
Previous experiments by a team led by Ray Baughman from the University of Texas explored the same principle with other materials including fishing line, and sewing thread in 2014. But these newest artificial muscles are even stronger, while using even cheaper materials.
Still, much work remains. Only roughly three percent of energy is actually absorbed by the fibers when heat is applied to them. But their simple design and extremely inexpensive construction could be a boon for future nanofibre technologies and artificial limbs.
READ MORE: Superstrong artificial muscle can lift 1000 times its own weight [New Scientist]
More on nanofibres: New “Nanofiber Yarn” Keeps Cells Alive While Injured