By Ian Randall For Mailonline
Published: 18:32 BST, 12 July 2019 | Updated: 18:32 BST, 12 July 2019
Three independent groups of researchers have designed powerful artificial muscles that are around 100 times stronger than ours.
The synthetic muscles are are designed around coiled or coiling fibres that can stretch and contract just like their natural counterparts.
The muscle designs could have various applications — from developing smart clothing that changes in response to the weather, to prosthetic limbs and robots.
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Three independent groups of researchers have designed powerful artificial muscles that are around 100 times stronger than ours. Pictured, the synthetic muscles of MIT materials scientist Mehmet Kanik and colleague
The same basic principle underpins the brawny robots developed by each research team — that coiled materials can stretch just like natural muscles.
Pioneering the technique was nanotech expert Ray Baughman of the University of Texas at Dallas and colleagues, who demonstrated the principle on standard household materials — sewing threads and fishing lines.
The team first showed that, after being twisted, even these basic materials can form muscle-like structures that can lift weights 100 times heavier than would be possible with human muscles of the same size.
Building on this theme, the researchers have now manufactured stronger fibres based around similarly cost-effective and familiar materials like bamboo or silk.
When coiled up and coated with a special sheath that responds to electrochemical or temperature changes, the team were able to get the muscle to contract and move in response to external triggers.
Such muscle materials could be used, for example, in smart clothing — a principle that the researchers demonstrated by incorporating their muscle fibres into a textiles so that it becomes more porous in response to moisture.
'You could imagine such a textile could be more open or more insulating,' University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign material scientist Sameh Tawfick