Muscles of the Future: A Cheap Artificial Actuator That's as Strong as an Elephant

Khryss | Published 2018-01-21 07:06

It costs only about 10 cents to make!

The University of Colorado Boulder scientists introduced what's called HASEL last January 5. HASEL (pronounced "hey-zuhl") actuator or muscle is an abbreviation for "hydraulically amplified self-healing electrostatic". What's that thing, even?

Well, it's a movement-creating device, a lifelike manmade muscle that is cheap, flexible, strong, and even has the potential to heal itself. "[The scientists] are helping create the future of flexible, more-humanlike robots that can be used to improve people's lives and well-being," a university dean says in a statement.

CU Boulder's Keplinger Research Group's creation is said to have a mechanism as flexible as an octopus, as strong as an elephant, and as fast as a hummingbird. "We have basically taken the best of those two approaches and merged them into a new technology," says senior author Christoph Keplinger, a mechanical engineering professor at CU Boulder.

What's more? It's made of cheap plastic used to make potato chip bags, filled with an electrically insulated liquid, similar to canola oil. Its shape changes when you run voltage through them and since the oil can withstand electricity, it may be used for potential self-healing.

"You can control it with only two wires," Science paper lead author Eric Acome says, referring to the wires used to power the electrodes. "We don't need to have some sort of external equipment."

"You could imagine them as being laid out in a forearm, and then they could control the digits of an artificial hand," Mitchell says.

Now here's to a more versatile and less bulky artificial muscles--the  muscles of the future!

"We want to create robotics that are lifelike," Keplinger says.

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