Scientists have created nimble robotic muscles as strong as an elephant and as bendy as an octopus. These soft but powerful new artificial muscles can sense their own movements and self-heal from electrical damage. What’s more, they only cost 10 cents to make.
The team of researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder was inspired by organic muscles to develop the soft “actuators.” The technology they have created could streamline bulky metal androids and enable them to mimic human-like movements, according to their work published in Science and Science Robotics.
The team filled elastic pouches with vegetable oil and hydrogel electrodes. When electricity is applied, the oil around the electrodes spasms. This pulls on the electrodes, making the whole artificial muscle contract and release in milliseconds. These movements can beat the speed of human muscle reactions.
By tailoring the shape of the pouches, researchers created a wide range of actuators with unique movements. The team call their flexible muscles “Hydraulically-amplified Self-healing Electrostatic” actuators, or HASEL actuators.