Bifunctional Polymer Allows Strength and Speed in Artificial Muscles
Strength and speed could not be achieved simultaneously because increasing muscle strength slows speed reduces the strength, until now. Technology Briefing
In the future, artificial muscles will enable robots to move their limbs as naturally as humans do. Such robots will be more useful, reliable and cost-effective than traditional anthropomorphic robots using pulleys and gears. To create these artificial muscles, an actuator which performs mechanical transformation under low voltage conditions is required. However, until recently, strength and speed could not be achieved simultaneously because increasing muscle strength slows down the switching speed and increasing speed reduces the strength.
To overcome these limitations, researchers funded by the Samsung Science and Technology Foundation introduced the innovative concept of a "bifunctional polymer." By forming a one-dimensional ion channel several nanometers wide and as hard as glass, inside the polymer matrix, a super-ionic polymer electrolyte with both high ionic conductivity and mechanical strength was created.
The findings from this study published in the journal Advanced Materials have the potential to enable innovations in soft robotics and wearable technology because they can be applied to development of an unprecedented artificial muscle that connects to a portable 1.5-Volt battery. This bifunctional polymer produces switching at speed of several milliseconds as well as great strength.
These results are expected to be applied in next-generation all-solid-state electrochemical robotic devices and use highly stable lithium metal batteries.