Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > UBC researchers invent tiny artificial muscles with the strength, flexibility of elephant trunk

Carbon nanotube yarns. Courtesy of John Madden
Carbon nanotube yarns. Courtesy of John Madden

Abstract:
An international team of researchers has invented new artificial muscles strong enough to rotate objects a thousand times their own weight, but with the same flexibility of an elephant's trunk or octopus limbs.



In the animated video above, you first see a few bacteria like creatures swimming about. Their rotating flagella are highlighted with some detail of the flagella motor turning the "hook" and "filament" parts of the tail. We next see a similar type of rotating tail produced by a length of carbon nanotube thread that is inside a futuristic microbot. The yarn is immersed in a liquid electrolyte along with another electrode wire. Batteries and an electrical circuit are also inside the bot. When a voltage is applied the yarn partially untwists and turns the filament. Slow discharging of the yarn causes it to re-twist. In this way, we can imagine the micro-bot is propelled along in a series of short spurts.

UBC researchers invent tiny artificial muscles with the strength, flexibility of elephant trunk

Vancouver, Canada | Posted on October 14th, 2011

In a paper published online today on Science Express, the scientists and engineers from the University of British Columbia, the University of Wollongong in Australia, the University of Texas at Dallas and Hanyang University in Korea detail their innovation. The study elaborates on a discovery made by research fellow Javad Foroughi at the University of Wollongong.

Using yarns of carbon nanotubes that are enormously strong, tough and highly flexible, the researchers developed artificial muscles that can rotate 250 degrees per millimetre of muscle length. This is more than a thousand times that of available artificial muscles composed of shape memory alloys, conducting organic polymers or ferroelectrics, a class of materials that can hold both positive and negative electric charges, even in the absence of voltage.

"What's amazing is that these barely visible yarns composed of fibres 10,000 times thinner than a human hair can move and rapidly rotate objects two thousand times their own weight," says Assoc. Prof. John Madden, UBC Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Madden says, "While not large enough to drive an arm or power a car, this new generation of artificial muscles - which are simple and inexpensive to make - could be used to make tiny valves, positioners, pumps, stirrers and flagella for use in drug discovery, precision assembly and perhaps even to propel tiny objects inside the bloodstream."

Central to the team's success are nanotubes that are spun into helical yarns, which means that they have left and right handed versions, which allows the yearn to be controlled by applying an electrochemical charge, and to twist and untwist.

The new material was devised at the University of Texas at Dallas and then tested as an artificial muscle in Madden's lab at UBC. A chance discovery by collaborators from Wollongong showed the enormous twist developed by the device. Guided by theory at UBC and further experiments in Wollongong and Texas, the team was able to extract considerable torsion and power from the yarns.

The torsional rotation of helically wound muscles, such as those in the flagella of bacteria, has existed in nature for hundreds of millions of years. Many other natural appendages - from the trunk of an elephant to octopus's powerful and limber tentacles - also show how helically wound muscle fibers cause rotation by contracting against a boneless core.

The nanotube yarns are activated by charging them in a salt solution, much as a battery is charged. A breakthrough discovery came from former UBC PhD student Tissaphern Mirfakhrai - now at Stanford - who found that the deformation of the yarns is proportional to the size and number of ions inserted. A similar effect is seen in lithium ion battery electrodes used in portable electronic devices, but in yarns it is put to good use. The helical structure of the yarns makes them unwind as they accept charge and swell. They twist back up again when discharged.

"The discovery, characterization, and understanding of these high performance torsional motors show the power of international collaborations," says corresponding author Ray Baughman, Robert A. Welch Professor of Chemistry and director of the University of Texas at Dallas Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute.

Support for this research includes a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Assoc. Prof. John Madden
UBC Dept. of Electrical Computer Engineering
Tel: 604.827.5306
Cell: 778.840.9417


Lorraine Chan
UBC Public Affairs
Tel: 604.822.2644
Cell: 604.209.3048

Copyright © University of British Columbia

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Northwestern researchers achieve unprecedented control of polymer grids: Materials could find applications in water purification, solar energy storage, body armor June 22nd, 2018

Nanobiotix Publishes Positive Phase 2/3 Data For Nanomedicine in Soft Tissue Cancer (Webcast June 22) June 22nd, 2018

Alzheimer's breakthrough: Brain metals that may drive disease progression revealed: In brains affected by Alzheimer's, researchers identify chemically reduced iron species, with mineral forms including a magnetic iron oxide June 22nd, 2018

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

Videos/Movies

Salt boosts creation of 2-D materials: Rice University scientists show how salt lowers reaction temperatures to make novel materials April 18th, 2018

Quantum shift shows itself in coupled light and matter: Rice University scientists corral, quantify subtle movement in condensed matter system April 16th, 2018

Improving human-data interaction to speed nanomaterials innovation: New application of data analysis, visualization techniques achieves better representation of multidimensional materials data: Work is part of Lehigh University's initiative to accelerate understanding of material March 27th, 2018

Individual quantum dots imaged in 3-D for first time February 28th, 2018

Nanotubes/Buckyballs/Fullerenes/Nanorods

Nano-saturn: Supramolecular complex formation: Anthracene macrocycle and C60 fullerene June 8th, 2018

Unzipping graphene nanotubes into nanoribbons: New study shows elegant mathematical solution to understand how the flow of electrons changes when carbon nanotubes turn into zigzag nanoribbons June 6th, 2018

Making carbon nanotubes as usable as common plastics: Researchers discover that cresols disperse carbon nanotubes at unprecedentedly high concentrations May 15th, 2018

'Exceptional' research points way toward quantum discoveries: Rice University scientists make tunable light-matter couplings in nanotube films April 30th, 2018

Nanomedicine

Nanobiotix Publishes Positive Phase 2/3 Data For Nanomedicine in Soft Tissue Cancer (Webcast June 22) June 22nd, 2018

Alzheimer's breakthrough: Brain metals that may drive disease progression revealed: In brains affected by Alzheimer's, researchers identify chemically reduced iron species, with mineral forms including a magnetic iron oxide June 22nd, 2018

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

JPK talks with Dr Frank Lafont, Director of the BioImaging Center Lille (BICeL) about the use of the NanoWizardŽ AFM together with fluorescence microscopy in the study of living cells June 19th, 2018

Discoveries

Alzheimer's breakthrough: Brain metals that may drive disease progression revealed: In brains affected by Alzheimer's, researchers identify chemically reduced iron species, with mineral forms including a magnetic iron oxide June 22nd, 2018

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

Carbon nanotube optics poised to provide pathway to optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing: Researchers are exploring enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes for unique applications June 18th, 2018

Camouflaged nanoparticles used to deliver killer protein to cancer June 17th, 2018

Announcements

Northwestern researchers achieve unprecedented control of polymer grids: Materials could find applications in water purification, solar energy storage, body armor June 22nd, 2018

Nanobiotix Publishes Positive Phase 2/3 Data For Nanomedicine in Soft Tissue Cancer (Webcast June 22) June 22nd, 2018

Alzheimer's breakthrough: Brain metals that may drive disease progression revealed: In brains affected by Alzheimer's, researchers identify chemically reduced iron species, with mineral forms including a magnetic iron oxide June 22nd, 2018

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

Research partnerships

Alzheimer's breakthrough: Brain metals that may drive disease progression revealed: In brains affected by Alzheimer's, researchers identify chemically reduced iron species, with mineral forms including a magnetic iron oxide June 22nd, 2018

Powering the 21st Century with Integrated Photonics: UCSB-Led Team Selected for Demonstration of a Novel Waveguide Platform Which is Transparent Throughout the MWIR and LWIR Spectral Bands June 19th, 2018

Evidence for a new property of quantum matter revealed: Electrical dipole activity detected in a quantum material unlike any other tested June 11th, 2018

Scientists use photonic chip to make virtual movies of molecular motion June 6th, 2018

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project