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

New record: 3D-printed optical-electronic integration June 18th, 2019

Can break junction techniques still offer quantitative information at single-molecule level June 18th, 2019

University of Konstanz researchers create uniform-shape polymer nanocrystals: Researchers from the University of Konstanz's CRC 1214 'Anisotropic Particles as Building Blocks: Tailoring Shape, Interactions and Structures' generate uniform-shape nanocrystals using direct polymeriz June 14th, 2019

Small currents for big gains in spintronics: A new low-power magnetic switching component could aid spintronic devices June 14th, 2019

Videos/Movies

New Video Highlights Specific Topics Sought in Call for Papers for the 2019 IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) June 13th, 2019

DNA origami to scale-up molecular motors June 13th, 2019

Flexible generators turn movement into energy: Rice University's laser-induced graphene nanogenerators could power future wearables June 2nd, 2019

Chemists build a better cancer-killing drill: Rice U.-designed molecular motors get an upgrade for activation with near-infrared light May 29th, 2019

Nanotubes/Buckyballs/Fullerenes/Nanorods

Making graphene-based desalination membranes less prone to defects, better at separating June 13th, 2019

Shaking hands with human or robot? Nanotubes make them alike as never before June 6th, 2019

Generating high-quality single photons for quantum computing: New dual-cavity design emits more single photons that can carry quantum information at room temperature May 17th, 2019

Self-powered wearable tech May 8th, 2019

Nanomedicine

A molecular glue to overcome cancer drug resistance? Small molecule drug may prevent chemotherapy resistance June 7th, 2019

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals to Present at Upcoming June 2019 Conferences June 2nd, 2019

Chemists build a better cancer-killing drill: Rice U.-designed molecular motors get an upgrade for activation with near-infrared light May 29th, 2019

Light and nanotechnology combined to prevent biofilms on medical implants May 24th, 2019

Discoveries

New record: 3D-printed optical-electronic integration June 18th, 2019

Can break junction techniques still offer quantitative information at single-molecule level June 18th, 2019

Mysterious Majorana quasiparticle is now closer to being controlled for quantum computing: Princeton researchers detect a robust Majorana quasiparticle and show how it can be turned on and off June 14th, 2019

University of Konstanz researchers create uniform-shape polymer nanocrystals: Researchers from the University of Konstanz's CRC 1214 'Anisotropic Particles as Building Blocks: Tailoring Shape, Interactions and Structures' generate uniform-shape nanocrystals using direct polymeriz June 14th, 2019

Announcements

New record: 3D-printed optical-electronic integration June 18th, 2019

Can break junction techniques still offer quantitative information at single-molecule level June 18th, 2019

University of Konstanz researchers create uniform-shape polymer nanocrystals: Researchers from the University of Konstanz's CRC 1214 'Anisotropic Particles as Building Blocks: Tailoring Shape, Interactions and Structures' generate uniform-shape nanocrystals using direct polymeriz June 14th, 2019

Small currents for big gains in spintronics: A new low-power magnetic switching component could aid spintronic devices June 14th, 2019

Research partnerships

2D crystals conforming to 3D curves create strain for engineering quantum devices June 7th, 2019

Shaking hands with human or robot? Nanotubes make them alike as never before June 6th, 2019

Beyond 1 and 0: Engineers boost potential for creating successor to shrinking transistors May 30th, 2019

Laser technique could unlock use of tough material for next-generation electronics: Researchers make graphene tunable, opening up its band gap to a record 2.1 electronvolts May 30th, 2019

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