Big news from the Nanotech Institute at UT Dallas. In association with DARPA and Nobel Prize winner Alan MacDairmid, Dr. Ray Baughman has developed artificial muscles powered by alcohol and hydrogen. They contract more than regular muscles and can do much more work per cycle:
The new muscles simultaneously function as fuel cells and muscles, according to Baughman, corresponding author of the Science article. A catalyst-containing carbon nanotube electrode is used in one described muscle type as a fuel cell electrode to convert chemical energy to electrical energy, as a supercapacitor electrode to store this electrical energy and as a muscle electrode to transform this electrical energy to mechanical energy. Fuel-powered charge injection in a carbon nanotube electrode produces the dimensional changes needed for actuation due to a combination of quantum mechanical and electrostatic effects present on the nanoscale, Baughman said.
In another of the described artificial muscles – currently the most powerful type – the chemical energy in the fuel is converted to heat by a catalytic reaction of a mixture of fuel and oxygen in the air. The resulting temperature increase in this “shorted fuel-cell muscle” causes contraction of a shape memory metal muscle wire that supports this catalyst. Subsequent cooling completes the work cycle by causing expansion of the muscle.
Strong work. You know, we’ve heard anecdotal reports about increased strength from alcohol-powered muscles, but this is the first practical application of that well-known phenomenon.
And when we first learned about artificial muscle for mechanical devices, last November, we speculated about the possibility of kung-fu attack robots — it looks like this will happen sooner, rather than later.
Via Gizmodo and WMMNA…