February 21, 2014
By taking simple sewing thread and fishing wire and giving it a twist, scientists have created artificial muscle that’s 100 times stronger than human or animal sinew. The invention, described in the journal Science, could be useful for prosthetic limbs, humanoid robots, implanted medical devices and even wearable clothing.
This wouldn’t be the first artificial muscle out there: there are carbon nanotube yarns and metal wires, but they’re often expensive or store relatively low amounts of energy compared to their competitors, scientists said.
These new high-strength polymer fibers, made out of cheap, everyday materials that cost about $5 per kilogram, draw their strength from their geometry. In experiments led out of the University of Texas at Dallas in Richardson, scientists took these thin fibers that were just a few hundred micrometers long and twisted them until they began to coil. (You can see this same effect yourself if you take a rubber band and twist it until it starts to collapse into larger loops.)